Nuclear submarine cooperation between Australia, the United States and Britain may may spark an arms race, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday.
"Once 'pandora's box' is opened, the regional strategic balance will be disrupted, regional security will be seriously threatened," said Tan Kefei, a spokesperson at the Chinese defence ministry, during a regular press briefing.
The United States, Australia and Britain this month unveiled details of a plan to provide Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines from the early 2030s to counter China's ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.
"China firmly opposes the establishment of the so-called 'trilateral security partnership' between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. This small circle dominated by Cold War mentality is useless and extremely harmful," Tan said.
Tan added such cooperation was an extension of the nuclear deterrence policy of individual countries, a game tool for building an "Asia-Pacific version of NATO" and seriously affected peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. (Reuters)
Kazakhstan's ruling Amanat party nominated Alikhan Smailov, prime minister since January 2022, for the same position on Thursday, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's office said, meaning he was certain to retain the job.
Smailov, 50, and other cabinet members resigned automatically after the March 19 snap parliamentary election, and Tokayev now needs to appoint a new government. (Reuters)
Australia on Thursday passed legislation requiring firms with more than 100 employees to publish their gender pay gap from early next year, as part of the Labor government's attempts to improve working conditions for women.
In 2023, Australia's national gender pay gap was 13.3%, according to official data.
"On current projections it will take another 26 years to close the gender pay gap," Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said in a statement.
"Women have waited long enough for the pay gap to close – this government will not let them wait another quarter of a century."
Britain made it mandatory in 2017 for all companies with more than 250 employees to report the difference in earnings of male and female staff. The European Union enacted similar legislation in 2021.
Australia's parliament earlier this month passed legislation increasing paid parental leave to 26 weeks, shared between both parents. (Reuters)
North Korea executes people for drugs, sharing South Korean media, and religious activities as it stifles its citizens' human rights and freedom, its rival, South Korea, said in a report on Thursday.
South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, based the 450-page report on testimony collected from 2017 to 2022 from more than 500 North Koreans who fled from their homeland.
"North Korean citizens' right to life appears to be greatly threatened," the ministry said in the report.
"Executions are widely carried out for acts that do not justify the death penalty, including drug crimes, distribution of South Korean videos, and religious and superstitious activities."
Reuters could not independently verify the South Korean government's findings but they were in line with U.N. investigations and reports from non-governmental organisations.
North Korea has rejected criticism of its rights conditions as part of a plot to overthrow its rulers.
The report gave details of rampant state-led rights abuses in communities, prison camps and elsewhere, including public executions, torture and arbitrary arrests.
Deaths and torture regularly occur in detention facilities and some people were summarily executed after being caught trying to cross the border, the ministry said.
The report came as South Korea seeks to highlight its isolated neighbour's failure to improve living conditions while racing to boost its nuclear and missile arsenals.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the report should better inform the international community of the North's "gruesome" abuses, saying North Korea deserved "not a single penny" of economic aid while it pursues its nuclear ambitions.
The approach by the conservative Yoon is a distinct departure from that of his liberal predecessor, Moon Jae-in, who faced criticism for his less outspoken position on the North's rights as he sought to improve ties and build rapport with its leader, Kim Jong Un.
The Unification Ministry is required by law to make an annual assessment of the North's rights situation.
Nearly 34,000 North Koreans have settled in South Korea but the number of defectors has fallen sharply because of tighter border security.
North Korean arrivals hit an all-time low of just 63 in 2021, amid COVID-19 shutdowns, before edging up to 67 in 2022, ministry data showed. (Reuters)
New Zealand's military will require big investment as it faces new challenges and greater expectations from regional allies, the country’s new defence minister, Andrew Little, said Thursday.
“I think when you look at the geostrategic situation we have in the Pacific at the moment, I think the longer-term challenge is that our partners and neighbours will say to us: ‘we expect more’,” Little told Reuters in an interview.
“The frequency of climate change events or weather events will only grow…. And then there is working with partners to project a posture that is defensive,” he said.
Little confirmed that the White House's Indo-Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell, this month had raised with him the possibility of New Zealand's becoming a non-nuclear partner of AUKUS.
The United States is "certainly keen to have New Zealand engaged but it’s not a decision I get to take alone,” he said. “In the next few weeks as we start to shape up some of the long-term (defence) questions for us; AUKUS will be one of them.”
New Zealand’s involvement in AUKUS would signal a further warming in relations between New Zealand and the United States. The countries are not official allies.
Little said that whatever New Zealand decided in terms of engaging with AUKUS, it was important that the defence force was equipped to work with its Australian counterparts.
New Zealand, which spends roughly 1.5% its of GDP on its military, is undertaking a defence policy review as the country grapples with regional geopolitics and climate change. Little said he expects to receive the first results of the review in the coming weeks.
The Defence Force has been struggling with record attrition in part because of low pay, which has forced the navy to idle three of its ships and to retire its P-3 Orion fleet early.
Resources are so thin, Little said, that if a second significant event had occurred while the Defence Force was responding to the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle in February, it would have struggled to respond.
Little said stopping people from leaving and attracting ex-Defence Force members back with higher pay was key. He said he did not know yet know what money this year's budget would allocate for the military.
He said that although New Zealand had made some investments already, the government needed to consider more, especially for the country's navy. (Reuters)
China is working on a request from cash-strapped Pakistan to roll over a $2-billion loan that matured last week, a top finance ministry official told Reuters, amid a stalemate in bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Such a rollover is critical for Pakistan, where foreign exchange reserves have dipped to just four weeks' worth of imports, at a time when it is seeking an IMF bailout tranche of $1.1 billion.
"It is a work in progress," the official said in a text message on Wednesday, referring to the rollover of the Chinese loan, which matured on March 23. "Formal documentation is underway."
A formal announcement will be made, added the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, without giving further details.
China's finance ministry and its central bank, the People's Bank of China, did not respond immediately to a Reuters request for comment on the matter.
As Pakistan struggles to avoid defaulting on its obligations, the only help so far has come from longtime ally Beijing, through a refinancing of $1.8 billion already credited to Pakistan's central bank.
The IMF funding is critical for Pakistan to unlock other external financing avenues, and the two have been negotiating since early February to resume $1.1 billion in funding held since November, part of a $6.5 billion bailout agreed in 2019.
One of the lender's last remaining conditions for release of the tranche is securing an assurance on external financing to fund Pakistan's balance of payments. (Reuters)
Myanmar's military government has dissolved the ousted ruling party of former leader Aung San Suu Kyi and 39 other parties, state media announced on Tuesday, over their failure to register for an election set to prolong the army's grip on power.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) is among dozens of parliamentary parties that were severely weakened by the military's 2021 coup against Suu Kyi's elected government and its crackdown on protests against its rule.
The polls, for which no date has been announced, will come amid a deepening crisis in Myanmar, where the military is fighting on multiple fronts to crush ethnic minority armies and a resistance movement formed to counter its lethal suppression of anti-coup dissent.
In a live broadcast late on Tuesday, state-run Myawaddy TV said 63 parties had registered at local or national level and named 40 parties that were automatically disbanded for failure to sign up by Tuesday's deadline.
The election is almost certain to be swept by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a military proxy that was trounced by the NLD in the 2015 election and in a 2020 vote that the generals eventually voided, citing unaddressed irregularities.
The hugely popular Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, 77, is among scores of NLD members jailed since the coup and is serving 33 years for multiple counts of corruption, a breach of a state secrets law and incitement, among other crimes.
Tun Myint, a senior NLD official, said the party would never have registered for the polls with many of its members in jail or "involved in the revolution".
"It doesn't matter whether they say our party is dissolved or not. We are standing with the support of people," Tun Myint told Reuters.
The shadow National Unity Government (NUG), which the junta has declared "terrorists", said the military had no authority to hold what would be a sham election.
"The political parties who respect the wishes of the people did not register," said its spokesperson Kyaw Zaw.
Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing on Monday urged international critics to get behind his efforts to restore democracy.
The election would return Myanmar to the quasi-civilian democratic system that experts say the military can control with the NLD out of the picture.
Under the power-sharing arrangement outlined in the constitution, the military is guaranteed three ministerial portfolios, a quarter of all legislative seats and a say in who gets nominated to become president.
Richard Horsey, senior adviser to the International Crisis Group, said the election was dangerous for the country.
"The majority of the population fiercely oppose going to the polls to legitimise the military's political control, so we will see violence ratchet up if the regime seeks to impose a vote, and resistance groups seek to disrupt them," said Horsey, who was based in Myanmar for 15 years. (Reuters)
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appealed to parliament on Tuesday to act against predecessor Imran Khan over accusations that his party was involved in violence that erupted when police tried to arrest him for alleged corruption.
The clashes occurred earlier this month after Khan's supporters prevented police and paramilitary forces from detaining him over allegations he unlawfully sold state gifts during his 2018-22 tenure as premier. He denies any wrongdoing.
Last week Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah asked for a parliamentary ruling to empower authorities to crack down on Khan's party and his supporters.
"Did you ever see law enforcement officers going to serve a court summons on someone and then being attacked with petrol bombs?" Sharif asked lawmakers in a speech telecast live.
"I'm appealing to this parliament that these things need to be taken care of immediately. This house has to take action today if we want to save Pakistan," he said, adding: "Enough is enough. Now law has to take its course."
Sharif did not spell out what action he wanted the parliament to take against Khan.
Some of Sharif's ministers have called for a ban on Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, but it was not clear whether the government was seeking this from parliament.
Sharif's coalition government, which took office after a parliamentary vote of no confidence ousted former cricket star Khan last year, has alleged that Khan's supporters had Islamist militants among them.
Since being removed, Khan has been demanding early elections and holding protests across the country to press his case.
The clashes between Khan's supporters and security forces have brought a new flare-up of political instability to the nuclear-armed country of 220 million people, which is in the midst of a crippling economic crisis.
Khan says the government and the powerful military are trying to stop him from contesting the next election, scheduled for November. Both the government and military deny this. If convicted in any case, Khan could be disqualified from the vote. (Reuters)
The Biden administration on Tuesday imposed new trade restrictions on five Chinese companies for allegedly aiding in the repression of the Uyghur Muslim minority but China rejected the accusation as "lies" aimed at constraining it.
According to Hikvision's 2021 half-year report, at least four of the companies facing new curbs belong to the Chinese surveillance camera maker including Luopu Haishi Dingxin Electronic Technology Co, Moyu Haishi Electronic Technology Co, Pishan Haishi Yong'an Electronic Technology Co and Urumqi Haishi Xin'an Electronic Technology Co.
Yutian Haishi Meitian Electronic Technology Co Ltd was also added.
Hikvision did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The companies "have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-technology surveillance against the Uyghur people and members of other Muslim minority groups," in the Xinjiang region, the Commerce Department said in a posting in the Federal Register.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the United States "wantonly suppresses Chinese firms with lies and politicises normal business and economic cooperation" and its move is aimed at destabilising Xinjiang and using the issues to constrain China.
"The idea that there exists so-called repression of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang has long been debunked," Mao said at a regular briefing on Wednesday.
She also said that China would take all necessary measures to defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese firms.
Being added to the entity list means U.S. suppliers must get a special and difficult-to-obtain license before shipping goods to those companies.
The United States has increasingly used the list to target Chinese firms.
Hikvision was placed on the U.S. trade blacklist in 2019 for being implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of what rights groups and Uyghur activists say is China's campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang. (Reuters)
China's commercial capital Shanghai saw its population fall in 2022 in the first decline in five years, official data showed, after authorities imposed draconian COVID-19 lockdowns and more than 250,000 migrant workers departed.
The data, published by Shanghai's statistics bureau on Tuesday, showed the densely-packed hub had 24.76 million people last year, compared with 24.89 million people in 2021.
Shanghai's figures came after Beijing also posted its first population drop since 2003.
Both cities are in line with national trends. China's population fell last year for the first time in six decades, weighed down by rising living costs especially in big, sprawling urban hubs, weak economic growth, and changing attitudes towards raising a family.
Around 60% of people living in Shanghai said they wanted just one child or none at all, according to an official survey by the bureau. More than 28% of Shanghai residents polled said they did not plan to have an additional child because of the high childcare costs.
Shanghai's birth rate dropped to 4.4 per 1,000 people from 4.7 a year earlier, while its death rate increased to 6.0 per 1,000 people from 5.6 due to a rapidly ageing population.
China last year recorded its lowest ever birth rate, of 6.77 per 1,000 people.
Around 18.7% of Shanghai's population is older than 65, above the national average of 14.9%.
Many women in Shanghai were put off having children during a stringent COVID lockdown in April and May last year, which demographers said could have profoundly damaged their desire to have children.
Concerned by China's shrinking population, political advisers to the government have made more than 20 recommendations to boost birth rates, though experts said the best they can do was to slow the population's decline. (Reuters)