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Ashton Yang

Ashton to visit China - and Mongolia

23 April 2013

Catherine Ashton heads to China on Thursday for a three day visit to China followed by a visit to fast-growing Mongolia. Her visit coincides with that of French President Francois Hollande. In Beijing she will meet Premier Li Keqiang, the top contact for EU-China relations, State Counsellor, Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Defence Minister Chang Wanquan. Ashton will wish to ensure that the new leadership shares the commitment of their predecessors to deepen EU-China relations. On the eve of her visit Ashton sent a message of condolence to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake.

2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the EU-China strategic partnership, an event that will be celebrated in the autumn summit. Ashton’s visit will help set the summit agenda and discuss common objectives for the coming decade. The Chinese have put forward a cooperation package that is now being discussed on the EU side as a basis for the future relationship.

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 Najib Razak - Anwar Ibrahim

Upcoming Elections in Malaysia – A Watershed?

12 April 2013

General elections in Malaysia have been called for 5 May 2013. The Parliament had been dissolved by Prime Minister Najib Razak on 4 April which paved the way for the 13th general elections.

The outcome of the elections remains unpredictable: whilst some recent opinion polls indicate that a narrow win of the ruling National Front Coalition (Barisan Nasional/BN) is to be expected, others predict a very slim victory of the oppositional People’s Alliance Coalition (Pakatan Rakyat/PR).

The ruling BN under Prime Minister Najib Razak consists of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), as well as ten smaller parties. The oppositional PR under Anwar Ibrahim is formed by the three major opposition parties. They are the Peoples Justice Party (PKR), the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), and the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

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Energy Use Asia ADB

Asia's Future Prosperity Requires Major Change in Energy Use

11 April 2013

HONG KONG, CHINA – Asia is moving along a dangerously unsustainable energy path that will result in environmental disaster and a gaping divide in energy access between rich and poor unless the region dramatically changes course, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.

“Asia could be consuming more than half the world’s energy supply by 2035, and without radical changes carbon dioxide emissions will double,” said ADB Chief Economist Changyong Rhee. “Asia must both contain rising demand and explore cleaner energy options, which will require creativity and resolve, with policymakers having to grapple with politically difficult issues like fuel subsidies and regional energy market integration.”

Asia’s Energy Challenge, the special theme chapter in ADB’s Asian Development Outlook 2013 (ADO 2013) released today, highlights the complex balancing act the region faces to deliver energy to all its citizens while scaling back its reliance on fossil fuels.

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Kim Jong Un

North Korea’s Unprecedented Threats

8 April 2013

North Korea, an impoverished communist country of 24 million, has often used threatening language in the past against the US and South Korea. But this time the threats are louder and more offensive than ever before. Nobody would care too much except that North Korea has developed a limited nuclear capability.

Most analysts suggest that the reason lies in internal politics, namely the efforts of the youthful new president, Kim Jong-un, to convince his generals that he can be as tough as his father. There is also speculation that the North may be about to conduct a further nuclear test.

In recent weeks, the North has shut down an emergency military hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang and stopped South Koreans from working at the Kaesong joint industrial complex just over the border in the north. This is a major source of foreign exchange for Pyongyang.

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Asia Defence Spending tops Europe

Asia Defence Spending tops Europe

16 March 2013

Last week’s Military Balance report by the Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) pointed to a dramatic change in military expenditure between Asia and Europe.

For the first time in history, Asian countries outspent European countries in defence in 2012. This was largely due to cuts in European budgets and partly due to rising tensions in Asia.

For almost a decade Asian countries have been spending more on defence due to their buoyant economies. According to the report, China was now the second-largest defence spender in the world and if it could sustain economic growth, it could match US defence in 15 years. The US, however, still accounted for 45% of global defence spending.

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Xi, Li

Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang Take Power

16 March 2013

The National People’s Congress anointed Xi Jinping as president on Thursday, 14 March, with 99.86% of the votes cast. Four months after being appointed general secretary of the Communist Party and chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi now leads all three major power centres of China: the party, the army, and the state. Li Yuanchao was elected vice president. Li, who is not part of the Politburo Standing Committee, is seen as close ally of Xi.

In his first speech as Chinese president, Xi Jinping pledged to fight for \'the great renaissance of the Chinese nation\' on Sunday, 17 March. Xi further stressed the importance of the combat against corruption.

On Friday, 15 March, Li Keqiang was confirmed as China’s prime minister with 99.69% of the votes, a number slightly lower than Xi’s. As successor of Wen Jiabao, his portfolio includes domestic and economic affairs.

The new ministers were appointed on Saturday, 16 March. New foreign minister is career diplomat Wang Yi, who is a specialist on Japan and previously in charge of relations with Taiwan. Beijing-born Wang was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Foreign Relations at Georgetown University in 1997. From 2004 to 2007, he served as Ambassador in Japan.

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Shinawatra and Barroso

EU-Thailand Launch FTA Negotiations

8 March 2013

Visiting Brussels this week Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Commission President Barroso launched negotiations for a free trade agreement between the EU and Thailand. Commissioner De Gucht and the Thai Minister of Commerce Boonsong had met the previous day to agree on the range of issues to be covered in the talks – tariffs, non-tariff barriers, services, investment, procurement, regulatory issues, competition and sustainable development.

The launch of FTA negotiations marks an important step in EU-Thai relations, already strengthened by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The first negotiating round is expected to take place before the summer break. Shinawatra said she hoped for ‘quick results.’

Thailand is the EU\'s third largest trading partner inside ASEAN and the EU is Thailand’s third largest trading partner, trade between them in 2012 reaching nearly €32 billion. The EU is also one of the largest investors in Thailand with investment stocks worth over €14 billion in 2011.

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Thein Sein Van Rompuy

President of Myanmar urges EU to lift sanctions

7 March 2013

President Thein Sein, on the first-ever visit to Brussels by a Myanmar head of state, received new pledges of EU economic assistance coupled with calls to protect his country\'s ethnic minorities. Sein urged EU leaders to lift sanctions, currently suspended, against his country. He said that as a result of two decades of sanctions Myanmar lacked capital and modern technology. With the end of hostilities in the province of Kachin he said the country was returning to a stable path.

The Myanmar leader had a packed programme in Brussels. He met with EP president Martin Schulz and the foreign affairs committee. He also met Commission president José Manuel Barroso, EU president Herman Van Rompuy and foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Ashton, flanked by commissioner for industry Antonio Tajani, will visit Myanmar later this year to look at further economic support.

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Sri Lanka Parliament

Crisis Group critical of Sri Lanka

20 February 2013

Government attacks on the judiciary and political dissent have accelerated Sri Lanka’s authoritarian turn and threaten long-term stability and peace. The government’s politically motivated impeachment of the chief justice reveals both its intolerance of dissent and the weakness of the political opposition. By incapacitating the last institutional check on the executive, the government has crossed a threshold into new and dangerous terrain, threatening prospects for the eventual peaceful transfer of power through free and fair elections.

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EU priorities in asia

EU Priorities in East Asia

15 February 2013

The re-emergence of Asia was one of the mega trends shaping the world said David O\'Sullivan, the Chief Operating Officer of the EEAS on 12 February. Asia was home to the world\'s fastest growing economies and was experiencing rapidly changing political dynamics. It had rising global significance and influence. Growth rates were being affected by the global economic slowdown. But still, and in comparative terms, the region was full of energy and confidence on the back of a decade of producing ever more impressive statistics on growth, trade, investment, science and technology. The key driving force behind all this has been that ever larger number of people in Asia have been able to satisfy that core human aspiration to shape your own life.

The EU and Asia were increasingly inter-linked and there was a growing mumber of bilateral and regional meetings where the EU was conducting useful business with their Asian counterparts.

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