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Japan PM protests Okinawa crime to Obama, who promises cooperation

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Japan PM Brack Obama

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe protested to U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday about the killing of a young woman in Okinawa which has reignited resentment of the heavy U.S. military presence on the southern Japanese island.

Obama, joining Abe ahead of a Group of Seven summit, expressed regrets over the killing for which a U.S. base worker has been charged.

“As Japanese prime minister, I protested sternly to President Obama over the recent incident in Okinawa,” Abe told a news conference, flanked by the president ahead of a Group of Seven summit meeting starting on Thursday.

“I feel strong indignation about the selfish and extremely mean crime,” Abe said.

Obama, arriving from a visit to Vietnam, told a joint news conference after his meeting with Abe: “I extended my sincerest condolences and deepest regrets…The United States will continue to cooperate fully with the investigation and ensure justice is done under the Japanese legal system.”

Okinawa, the site of a brutal World War Two battle, hosts the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan and many residents resent what they see as an unfair burden.

Many also associate the bases with crime, pollution and noise. The rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by U.S. military personnel in 1995 sparked huge anti-base demonstrations.

Both governments want to keep the incident from fanning further opposition to an agreement to relocate the U.S. Marines’ Futenma air base to a less populous part of Okinawa, a plan first agreed upon after the 1995 rape but opposed by the island’s governor and many residents who want the base off the island entirely.

Obama is also set to make a historic visit to Hiroshima, site of the world’s first atomic bombing, on Friday, after attending the G7 summit.

Both governments are hoping the Hiroshima visit will showcase a strong alliance between the former wartime foes.

GLOBAL ECONOMY

Concerns about the health of the global economy will top the agenda at the G7 summit, although full agreement on macro-economic policy looks hard to come by.

“I want to make this a summit at which the G7 sends a clear, strong message to respond to all situations and contribute to the sustainable, strong growth of the world economy,” Abe told reporters earlier.

The G7 leaders are expected to promote a combination of monetary, fiscal and structural policies to spur growth in their communique when the summit ends on Friday, government sources told Reuters.

With Britain and Germany resisting calls for fiscal stimulus, Abe is set to urge the G7 leaders to adopt a flexible fiscal policy, taking into account each country’s own situation, the sources said. In addition, the G7 leaders were expected to reaffirm their previous commitment to stability in the foreign exchange market.

Summit topics also include terrorism, refugees, trade, cyber security and maritime security, including China’s assertiveness in the East and South China Seas, where Beijing has territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations.

The G7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

Source : http://www.reuters.com/

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Italian PM Giuseppe Conte wins crucial vote of confidence

Conte will now lead a minority administration in a country prone to political disputes.

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Giuseppe Conte Italy PM

Italy averted further political chaos on Tuesday after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte survived a confidence vote in the upper house of Parliament.

The country had been embroiled in fresh political uncertainty over the past week after a smaller party withdrew its support for the coalition government — thus stripping it off from having a majority in Parliament.

However, Italian lawmakers in the Senate supported Conte during a vote on Tuesday, by 156 to 140, allowing him to remain in office. He was also backed by the lower house of Parliament in a vote on Monday evening. Conte will now lead a minority administration in a country prone to political disputes.

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Joe Biden to propose eight-year citizenship path for immigrants

The legislation puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino and immigrant communities.

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Joe Biden

President-elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on day one of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the United States without legal status, in what would be a reversal from the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies.

The legislation puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump’s restrictive policies and mass deportations.

It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years, but it fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favoured by many Republicans, putting passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt.

Expected to run hundreds of pages, the bill is set to be introduced after Biden takes the oath of office on Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the legislation who spoke to the Associated Press news agency anonymously.

As a candidate, Biden called Trump’s actions on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and said he would “undo the damage” while continuing to maintain border enforcement.

Under the legislation, those living in the US as of January 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other basic requirements. From there, it is a three-year path to naturalisation, if they decide to pursue citizenship.

For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the US without documentation as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status, could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.

The bill is not as comprehensive as the last major immigration overhaul proposed when Biden was vice president during the Obama administration.

For example, it does not include a robust border security element, but rather calls for coming up with strategies. Nor does it create any new guest worker or other visa programmes.

It does address some of the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States, and provides grants for workforce development and English language learning.

Biden is expected to take swift executive actions to reverse other Trump immigration actions, including an end to the prohibition on arrivals from several predominantly Muslim countries.

During the Democratic primary, Biden consistently named immigration action as one of his first-day priorities, pointing to the range of executive powers he could invoke to reverse Trump’s policies.
Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and enough other Republican senators to avoid the impasse that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades.

That kind of major win – even if it involves compromise – could be critical as Biden looks for legislative victories in a closely divided Congress, where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities that involve rolling back some of the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending.

As a candidate, Biden said the Obama administration went too far in its aggressive deportations.

SOURCE : AP

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Trump administration determines China committed Uighur ‘genocide’

The determination, issued on the last day of Trump’s term, has no immediate effects but likely to strain US-China ties.

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Uighur Muslim rights

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration has determined China has committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” in its repression of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

“After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that the [People’s Republic of China], under the direction and control of the [Chinese Communist Party], has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” Pompeo said in a statement on Tuesday.

he statement claims “exhaustive documentation” of the events “confirms that since at least March 2017, local authorities dramatically escalated their decades-long campaign of repression against Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, including ethnic Kazakhs and ethnic Kyrgyz”.

The determination comes a day before US President-elect Joe Biden is to take office. Biden’s campaign declared genocide was occurring in Xinjiang before the president-elect’s victory.

“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo added.

The Reuters news agency reported that US officials briefing reporters on the move said in a call that “an exhaustive documentation of [China’s] own policies, practices and abuse in Xinjiang” viewed by Pompeo led him to make the determination that such acts had been committed since at least March 2017.

“This is a very serious and tragic set of actions that are taking place there in the western part of China,” Pompeo said in an interview on Tuesday on US TV station Fox News.

“This is forced sterilisation, forced abortions – the kind of things that we haven’t seen in an awfully long time in this world,” Pompeo said.

He said the designation is something they have been working on “for an awfully long time”.

The move is likely to place a further burden on the deteriorating ties between the world’s leading economies.

Washington has ramped up sanctions on Beijing over alleged abuses in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and military incursions in the disputed South China Sea.

The Trump administration has also sanctioned Huawei, one of China’s leading telecommunications companies, as it plans to expand throughout Europe and North America.

The rare determination comes after Congress passed legislation on December 27 requiring the US administration to determine within 90 days whether forced labour or other alleged crimes against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are crimes against humanity or genocide.

China has been widely criticised for complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centres” to stamp out “extremism” and give people new skills, but which others have called concentration camps.

Pompeo’s determination does not have immediate effects, though it places a spotlight on Xinjiang, one of the world’s leading regions for producing cotton.

Last week, the United States imposed a ban on all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang.

Pompeo said on Tuesday “the threat from the Chinese Communist Party is real. It is existential to the United States”, and that he is “counting on the next administration continuing our work”.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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