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China Giving Pakistan $3.5 Billion in Loans, Grants

China is promising about $3.5 billion to help bolster Pakistan’s dwindling foreign cash reserves and pay for socio-economic development plans undertaken by the country’s new government.

Beijing will soon deposit $2.5 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), raising to $4.5 billion the total amount in commercial loans China has given Pakistan this fiscal year, officials and diplomatic sources confirmed.

Officials say the Chinese government has also promised a grant of $1 billion for education, health, vocational training, drinking water and poverty alleviation projects over the next three years.

Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar said Chinese experts are due to arrive in Islamabad later this month to coordinate socio-economic development under the promised grant.

Pakistan’s foreign currency exchange remains under severe pressure, despite receiving around $2 billion from China and $4 billion from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in commercial loan deposits.

SBP reserves stood at $8.2 billion last week, barely enough to cover two months’ worth of imports.

China’s CPEC

In the last six years, China has made significant financial contributions to direct investment, soft loans and commercial deposits to help its close ally, Pakistan, overcome severe economic challenges.

Under its Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing has invested $19 billion in Pakistan to build and improve road infrastructure and power plants and opened the strategic Arabian Sea port of Gwadar. Beijing has also given Islamabad concessional loans for some projects under what is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The cooperation deal has created more than 70,000 jobs for Pakistanis and quickly resolved the country’s chronic energy crisis. But investments from China had stopped because all major projects under CPEC will be complete by the end of this year.

Chinese and Pakistani officials say preparations are under way to launch the next phase of CPEC in coming weeks to construct nine special economic zones across Pakistan.

Beijing plans to relocate some of its industries by transferring technology to the new industrial zones to help Islamabad increase its exports to overcome its massive trade deficit and shore up cash reserves.

CPEC has “changed the image of Pakistan” and encouraged other countries to invest in the country, notes veteran opposition Senator Mushahid Hussain, who chairs the foreign affairs committee of the upper house of parliament. He praised China for being the only country to bring unprecedented, massive investments to Pakistan five years ago when other nations were reluctant to do so due to terrorism-related security concerns and political considerations.

“Before CPEC, people were talking of a failing state, of problems of Pakistan. Today, Pakistan is part of the solution to key regional problems [including Afghanistan] and Pakistan’s image is that of an investor-friendly, tourism-friendly destination,” Mushahid said.

China believes a stable and strong Pakistan is in the interest of China, said Yao Jing, Chinese ambassador to Islamabad. “China would like to align the development strategies of both countries and support development of Pakistan,” he wrote in a recent article.

Khan’s reform agenda

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s nascent government has embarked on a major economic reform agenda to revive the country’s crisis-ridden economy and attract much-needed foreign direct investment.

Khan has defended what he admits are “painful reforms,” saying Pakistan’s financial woes could not be addressed without taking tough, long-overdue measures. He blames alleged mismanagement and corruption by his predecessors for the ailing state of the economy. The government has increased duties on luxury imports, significantly devalued the currency to encourage exports, and raised prices of utility services, particularly natural gas, to generate more revenue.

Officials defend their arrangement of emergency loans from Pakistan’s friendly countries, saying they are intended mainly to secure a breathing space for macroeconomic stabilization measures to take root and create a business-friendly environment.

Saudi Crown Prince to visit

In addition to lending urgent cash deposits of $3 billion each at an interest rate of about 3 percent, both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have also allowed Islamabad to defer $6 billion in oil import payments for one year.

Pakistani officials say the Saudi government has already disbursed $3 billion and the process for $3 billion in deferred oil payments have been finalized. An agreement is expected to be signed when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman visits Islamabad Saturday.

The prince is expected to announce projects worth up to $20 billion during his first state visit, Pakistani investment minister Haroon Sharif told VOA this week. The projects include a massive oil refinery in Gwadar with an estimated investment of around $10 billion.

The UAE is working to establish an oil refinery in Pakistan and plans investments in other sectors. Malaysia, Qatar and South Korea are among other countries anxious to invest in Pakistan, officials said.

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Trump: Trade Negotiations with China ‘Going Extremely Well’

U.S. President Donald Trump is hailing progress in ongoing trade talks with China, with negotiators set to meet next week in Washington as the March 1 deadline approaches.

“It’s going extremely well, who knows what (that) means because it only matters if we get it done. But we’re very much working very closely with China and President Xi, who I respect a lot, very good relationship that we have, and we’re a lot closer than we ever were in this country with having a real trade deal,” Trump told reporters at the White House Friday.

Earlier in the day, China’s President Xi Jinping met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Beijing. The official Xinhua news agency reported Xi said that he hopes the two sides can reach a mutually beneficial deal in their next round of negotiations. 

A U.S. Treasury Department statement said the U.S. delegation focused on issues such as forced technology transfers, intellectual property rights, cyber theft, agriculture, services and currency. 

“Detailed and intensive discussions led to progress between the two parties. Much work remains, however,” the Treasury statement said. 

China’s state media report said the talks over the past two days made some progress on difficult and important issues. The statement said although much work remains to be done, the American officials said they were hopeful and willing to work with China to reach a deal in line with the interests of both sides.

This week’s high-level discussions were aimed at reaching a deal ahead of the March deadline for an escalation in tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports.

In a tweet on Friday, before meeting with Xi, Secretary Mnuchin said that he and Lighthizer had “productive meetings” with China’s top negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He.

Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of China’s nationalistic tabloid the Global Times was optimistic, noting that there is a “great possibility for China and the U.S. reaching (a) final agreement.”

In a tweet, he said, “From what I know, during the just-concluded round of China-U.S. trade talks, the two sides have discussed how to draft a document on comprehensively solving China-U.S. trade disputes, namely a MoU,” adding that “After nearly one year of tough talks, I think the finishing line is nearly in sight.”

Despite, Hu’s optimism, few analysts see anything truly final being hammered out in the 90-day period that ends March 2. At best, most express a hope that the two sides will be able to create a framework that charts the way forward.

Last July, President Trump began raising tariffs that were aimed at “confronting China’s unfair trade practices,” such as a lack of reciprocal market access and complaints that Beijing steals or forces the handover of technology from companies. The trade tussle also seeks to address China’s multi-billion-dollar trade surplus with the United States and generous subsidies for state industries.

China has responded by offering to narrow the trade surplus by purchasing more American soybeans, natural gas and other exports, but its willingness to press forward with key structural reforms remains a key sticking point.

VOA Mandarin Service reporter Jinxun Li contributed to this report.


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Hanoi Summit Sparks Optimism, But Called Moment of Truth

The second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in roughly two weeks is being seen by some as cause for optimism, but also as a moment of truth.

Park In-hook, the president of the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies, said during the organization’s inaugural trilateral conference on China, U.S., and South Korean issues, there’s a lot of emphasis on the February 27-28 talks in Hanoi “because there is some phobia that this might be the last chance.”

Real results expected in Hanoi

Former U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Joseph Yun said the international community had the right to expect results from the Hanoi summit.

“The first meeting (Singapore summit) succeeded in breaking a barrier, [the] second meeting must show results… [there] are two underlying issues. One is denuclearization and a second is building a peace process,” said Yun.

He added there is a fear in the United States that getting into a peace track might lead to the acceptance of nuclear weapons in North Korea.

“Many people in Washington are worried about this concept of denuclearization through peace, because that seems to most Americans… backwards. It should be denuclearization first, then peace,” said Yun.

Recently, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun spent nearly three days engaged in talks with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Hyok Chol, in Pyongyang. While Biegun called the discussions “productive,” he also noted that much work still needed to be done.

“President Trump has made clear, both to North Korea as well as to our team, that he expects significant and verifiable progress on denuclearization — actions that are bold, and real to emerge from that next summit,” said Biegun.

Robert Einhorn, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the Trump administration is “getting a lot more realistic” about what’s needed for serious negotiations to take place in Hanoi.

“We are unlikely to learn whether Kim Jong Un is really willing to give up his nuclear weapons,” Einhorn said. He added that he “strongly doubts” the Trump administration can secure a commitment from North Korea to completely denuclearize.  

But he added there is an alternative course of action than returning to a “strategy of squeezing the North Koreans economically, deterring North Korea’s aggressive behavior, and eventually bring about its fundamental transformation or collapse.”

“Negotiate an interim agreement that would cap, and perhaps reduce, North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities,” he said.

It’s something Einhorn believes would allow North Korea and the United States to continue negotiations toward the goal of complete denuclearization, but without a deadline.

Such a deal would have some disadvantages, he said, but it could also limit Pyongyang’s weapons development progress and open channels of communication that could be used to pursue confidence-building measures to reduce tensions and avoid dangerous miscalculations.

Can the process move forward?

Despite a general sense of optimism surrounding the upcoming summit, there is still the possibility of continued “stagnation,” or the status quo, said Zhang Fangming, chairman of the Academic Committee of the Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the China Foundation for International Strategic Studies.

He said this may happen if “[North Korea] refuses to make a nuclear declaration in any form at the current stage or does not accept verification of its declaration.”

Another scenario that may perpetuate the status quo revolves around the U.S. Congress’ response to the summit and if they refuse to gradually lift sanctions against Pyongyang without it first comprehensively abandoning its nuclear program or making a comprehensive declaration.

Zhang said the “only correct choice is to jointly make [a] long term and worthy effort for the full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

But Kim Sung-han, South Korea’s former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said President Trump may agree to “something attractive to the U.S. for the easing of sanctions on North Korea.”

“President Trump could choose a part of the North Korean nuclear problem… like ICMBs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) because they are the most threatening to the safety of U.S. citizens,” said Kim.

But the problem, according to Kim Sung-han, is that if, after two summits, Trump and Kim do not come to an agreement where Pyongyang declares its nuclear capability, then the United States would be acquiescing to North Korea’s tactics.

Handong Global University professor Kim Joonhyung said both Kim Jong Un and President Trump are aware of the criticisms.

He said the Hanoi meeting is very much a “moment of truth.”

“If this [summit] fails,” he said, he doesn’t think there will be future meetings between the two leaders.

He added that the big question for the upcoming summit is, “How much sanctions relief Trump is willing to offer in exchange for [partial denuclearization.]”



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«Приватбанк» повідомив, що арбітраж у Гаазі ухвалив рішення проти Росії в справі про Крим

Постійна палата третейського суду в нідерландській Гаазі виніс рішення на користь «Приватбанку» у справі проти Росії щодо експропріації активів банку в анексованому нею Криму, повідомила прес-служба українського державного банку.

«У частковому арбітражному рішенні від 4 лютого 2019 року, про яке стало відомо сьогодні, арбітражний суд визнав, що він має юрисдикцію щодо усіх вимог «Приватбанку проти Російської Федерації, що Російська Федерація порушила свої зобов’язання за двосторонньою угодою про заохочення та взаємний захист інвестицій, незаконно експропріювавши активи «Приватбанку» в Криму, і що «Приватбанк» має право на відшкодування за таку експропріацію в повному обсязі», – інформує прес-служба банку.

Згідно з повідомленням, арбітражний суд залишив питання щодо розміру відшкодування на наступний етап арбітражного розгляду. «Приватбанк» прагне відшкодувати понад один мільярд доларів.

У березні 2014 року Росія анексувала український півострів Крим. Міжнародні організації визнали анексію Криму незаконною і засудили дії Росії, країни Заходу запровадили проти неї економічні санкції. Кремль заперечує анексію півострова і називає це «відновленням історичної справедливості».

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Суддя у «справі Супрун» заявив про самовідвід

Суддя Окружного адмінсуду Києва Сергій Каракашьян, який розглядає справу про усунення з посади виконувачки обов’язків міністра охорони здоров’я Уляни Супрун, заявив про самовідвід. Після озвученого в ході засідання рішення Каракашьян пішов до нарадчої кімнати.

У випадку, коли суддя заявляє про самовідвід, справа передається на автоматизований розподіл.

Сьогодні Окружний адміністративний суд Києва розглядає позов народного депутата від Радикальної партії Ігоря Мосійчука проти виконувачки обов’язків міністра охорони здоров’я Уляни Супрун. Радіо Свобода веде пряму трансляцію.

Позов Мосійчука стосується «відсутності повноважень» у Супрун на виконання обов’язків міністра.

5 лютого стало відомо, що Окружний адміністративний суд Києва в особі судді Сергія Каракашьяна заборонив Уляні Супрун «вчиняти будь-які дії, спрямовані на реалізацію повноважень голови МОЗ». Першим про це повідомив лідер Радикальної партії Олег Ляшко, політична сила якого і подала відповідний позов. Пізніше інформацію підтвердили і в самому Міністерстві охорони здоров’я. В уряді оскаржили це рішення суду.

14 лютого суд скасував своє рішення усунути Супрун з посади.

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Турчинов заявив про активізацію російських агентурних мереж перед виборами в Україні

Секретар Ради національної безпеки та оборони Олександр Турчинов заявив, що Росія намагається впливати на вибори в Україні, використовуючи широкий спектр гібридних технологій.

«Спостерігається активізація агентурних мереж, проросійських політичних проектів та ЗМІ, зростає і терористична загроза. У випадку нездатності проведення зручного для Росії кандидата та посилення впливу проросійських сил, Кремль намагатиметься всіма шляхами скомпрометувати або зірвати виборчий процес, що може значно дестабілізувати ситуацію в нашій державі», – наголосив секретар РНБО.

Турчинов запевнив, що силові структури України під час виборчого процесу будуть діяти у межах законодавства і Конституції, «але всіляко протидіючи будь-яким намаганням зірвати, скомпрометувати, фальсифікувати чи впливати на волевиявлення громадян».

Вибори президента відбудуться 31 березня 2019 року. Центральна виборча комісія зареєструвала 44 претендентів на цю посаду.

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Pompeo: US Aims to ‘Get as Far Down Road as We Can’ with N Korea

The United States aims to “get as far down the road as we can” ahead of a summit with North Korea in Vietnam this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.

Pompeo said he was sending his team back to Asia in the coming days for further discussions around all issues discussed at a groundbreaking Singapore summit last June between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump announced last week he would hold a second summit with Kim in Hanoi on Feb. 27 and 28.

Pompeo told a news conference in Warsaw that Trump and Kim would be looking at the “denuclearisation pillar they agreed to” at their first summit as well as other matters.

“We’ll certainly talk about how we … reduce tension, reduce military risks, take down that risk so we can get peace and security on the peninsula as well,” he said after a conference on the Middle East.

“We are aiming to get this as far down the road as we can in what is now a couple of weeks,” Pompeo said.

Asked later in a Fox News interview how important the formal end of the Korean War was in the discussions, Pompeo said: “It’s something we’ve had a lot of talks about. In fact, my team will redeploy to Asia here in a day or two to continue conversations around all elements that were discussed back in Singapore.”

The United States has been demanding that North Korea give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States, and Trump has been eager for a second summit even though the Singapore meeting produced only vague commitments from Kim and little concrete progress since.

North Korea has been seeking a lifting of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War and security guarantees.

In an interview with CBS News on Wednesday, Pompeo said of Kim that “now it’s time for him to deliver.”

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun is expected to hold further talks with his North Korean counterpart next week to prepare for the Hanoi summit.

Biegun held three days of talks in Pyongyang last week, which he said would be aimed at mapping out “a set of concrete deliverables” for Hanoi. The State Department has offered no indications of any progress in these.

South Korean media said Biegun told a South Korean parliamentary delegation that in Pyongyang the two sides agreed not to negotiate, but to make clear their respective positions, and they would seek to narrow their differences in the next round of talks.


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White House Upbeat on Beijing Trade Talks

A top White House economic adviser is expressing confidence in the current U.S.-China trade negotiations in Beijing.

“The vibe in Beijing is good,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters Thursday at the White House. 

Kudlow provided few details but said the U.S. delegation led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is “covering all ground” ahead of their expected meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping tomorrow.

“That’s a very good sign and they’re just soldiering on, so I like that story,” Kudlow said, “And I will stay with the phrase, the vibe is good.”

Negotiators are working to strike a deal by March 1, to avoid a rise in U.S. tariffs on $200 million worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent. President Donald Trump suggested earlier this week that if talks are seeing signs of progress, that deadline could be pushed back.

When asked Thursday if there would be an extension, Kudlow said, “No such decision has been made so far.”

Analyst William Reinsch, a former president of the National Foreign Trade Council and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says the talks are complicated by the three main areas under negotiation.

“Market access, which I think is well on the way to completion. Some Chinese offers on intellectual property, which I think they are not going to offer what we want. … And some compliance in enforcement matters,” he said.

Reinsch told VOA’s Mandarin service that U.S. negotiators are specifically seeking ways to hold China accountable for the commitments it makes in any deal.

Munich Security Conference

While American and Chinese negotiators continue talks in Beijing, both countries are setting up for another potential faceoff in Europe.

The U.S. and China are sending large delegations to Friday’s Munich Security Conference in Germany, a high-level conference on international security policy. Vice President Mike Pence leads the U.S. delegation while Politburo member Yang Jiechi will be the most senior Chinese official.

Yang Jiechi is heading the largest-ever Chinese delegation to the conference traditionally attended by the U.S. and its European allies. He is pushing back against Washington’s campaign pressing Europe to exclude Chinese tech giant Huawei from taking part in constructing 5G mobile networks in the region.

U.S. officials say allowing the Chinese company to build the next generation of wireless communications in Europe will enhance the Chinese government’s surveillance powers, threatening European security.

Although the technology behind 5G is complex, Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former assistant secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department, said the decisions for European countries is simple.

“Given the nature of modern telecommunication, countries do have to make a choice whether or not that Huawei, given its ownership relationship with the Chinese government, can it be trusted to provide their future communication systems.”

Both Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned allies in Poland and other Central European countries this week on the dangers of closer ties with Beijing and collaboration with Chinese firms. In Budapest, Hungary, on Monday, Pompeo said American companies might scale back European operations if countries continue to do business with Huawei.

Huawei has repeatedly denied its products could be used for espionage.

U.S. prosecutors have filed charges against Huawei including bank fraud, violating sanctions against Iran, and stealing trade secrets. The company refuted these accusations and rejected charges against its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is currently on bail in Canada following her arrest in December.

This year’s Munich Security Conference topics include the “great power competition” between the United States, China and Russia. Conference organizers have listed U.S.-China tensions as one of their top 10 security issues of 2019.

VOA’s Mandarin Service reporter Jingxun Li contributed to this report.