N. Korea Readies New Missile Launch as US, South Hold Military Drills Next Week

Korea

North Korea is preparing for a new ballistic missile launch, a news report said on Saturday.

The test will be held ahead of joint naval drills between the United States and South Korea, added the Donga Ilbo daily that cited a government source.

Satellite pictures show ballistic missiles mounted on launchers being transported out of hangars near Pyongyang and in the North Phyongan Province.

US and South Korean military officials suspect the North might be preparing to launch missiles capable of reaching US territory, the newspaper said.

This could be the Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), whose range could extend to Alaska, or Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles which Pyongyang threatened to fire towards the US Pacific territory of Guam in August, the report said.

Another possibility is that the North might be preparing to test a new Hwasong-13 ICBM, it added, that has a longer maximum range than the other two missiles and could potentially reach the US West Coast.

A defense ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying: “We don’t comment on any matters of military intelligence. We are keeping a close watch over the North.”

The US navy said Friday that the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier will lead the exercises with South Korea in the coming week, a fresh show of force against North Korea. The move will likely rile Pyongyang which has previously responded angrily to joint exercises.

The joint drills led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier come after hectic US military hardware movements around the Korean peninsula in recent days.

These follow a flurry of missiles from Pyongyang, which conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month in defiance of international sanctions.

On Friday the nuclear-powered USS Michigan submarine arrived at the southern South Korean port of Busan, just days after another nuclear-powered submarine — the USS Tuscon — left after a five day visit.

Earlier this week the US flew two supersonic heavy bombers over the Korean peninsula, staging the first night-time joint aviation exercises with Japan and South Korea.

US President Donald Trump’s continued threats of military action against Pyongyang if it does not tame its weapons ambitions have fueled fears of conflict on the Korean peninsula.

On Friday however, he said that he was open to the possibility that negotiations can steady tensions with Pyongyang, but he appeared to suggest he was keeping military options open.

Trump told reporters at the White House: “If it’s going to be something other than negotiation, believe me we are ready more so than we have ever been.”

He was responding to a question about his comment last week before a dinner with military leaders when he referred ambiguously to “the calm before the storm.”

Trump recently declared that his top diplomat was “wasting his time” in trying to negotiate with the North.

Meanwhile, the European Union will agree on Monday to ban business ties with North Korea, part of a new package of sanctions to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

The practical impact of the moves is likely to be mostly symbolic: Brussels will impose an oil embargo and a ban on EU investment, but it sells no crude to North Korea and European companies have no substantial investments there.

North Korean workers in the EU, of which Brussels estimates there are about 400 mainly in Poland, will face a lower limit on the amount for money they can send home and their work visas will not be renewed once they expire.

The measures to be agreed by EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg go further than the latest round of multi-lateral sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

EU: Washington Does Not Have Authority to Terminate Iran Nuclear Deal

Mogherini

London – European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed on Friday that US President Donald Trump does not have the authority to terminate the nuclear deal world powers signed with Iran in wake of his recent announcement of a new strategy against Tehran.

She said: “The president of the United States has many powers, but not this one.”

Trump had announced during a speech unveiling during which he unveiled the new strategy that he could terminate the deal at any time.

In other European reactions to Trump’s stance, France, Germany and Britain said in a joint statement that preserving the nuclear deal “falls within our national interest.”

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romat said in a statement that the deal was a strong tool to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert stated: “We have a great interest in the continuation of this international unity. If … an important country like the United States comes to a different conclusion as appears to be the case, we will work even harder with other partners to maintain this cohesion.”

Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano declared on Friday that Tehran is “subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.”

He added that Iran is honoring its commitments.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced that FM Sergei Lavrov had telephoned his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif on Friday, saying that Moscow will remain completely committed to the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Lavrov told Zarif that Russia was firmly determined to implement the deal in the form in which it was approved by the United Nations Security Council, reported Reuters.

The Kremlin meanwhile warned of “negative and dire consequences” if Washington withdrew from the deal, saying that Tehran would reciprocate such a move.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that spiking the deal “would undoubtedly hurt the atmosphere of predictability, security, stability and non-proliferation in the entire world.”

Echoing Moscow’s stance, Beijing reiterated its commitment to the nuclear deal with Iran.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman hoped that all sides would continue to support and implement the agreement.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “strongly hoped” the Iran nuclear deal will remain in place, after Trump accused Iran of violating the accord.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric noted that Guterres had long praised the 2015 pact as a very important breakthrough to stem the spread of nuclear weapons and advance global peace.

China: Reshuffling the Party Cadres

China

It is a testimony to the peculiarities of international attention to world events that while every tweet by US President Donald Trump triggers an avalanche of reports, analyses, and outright abuse, little attention is paid as the People’s Republic of China prepares to hold its five-yearly National Congress of the Communist Party in Beijing.

And, yet, China is now established as the world’s largest economy in gross domestic product (GDP) terms and the second biggest exporter after Germany. It also has the world’s fastest-growing portfolio of foreign investments with interests in 118 nations across the globe.

At the same time, at least 10 million Chinese are working abroad, almost always on projects sponsored by Beijing, helping transform large chunks of Africa, South America, and Asia.

According to estimates, there are already more than three million Chinese in Siberia, spearheading a 19th century-style campaign to exploit the region’s vast natural resources. First encouraged by Moscow, the Chinese presence has become a source of concern for the Kremlin which fears losing control of Siberia due to demographic imbalance. This is why Russia now offers free land and seed capital to any Russian citizen who wishes to settle in Siberia. (Few have taken the offer, so far!)

China has launched projects that recall the golden days of European imperial expansion in the 19th century.
The new Silk Route project, the biggest in human history by way of the $1.4 trillion investments, will link the Central Asian heartland to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan, directly or indirectly affecting the economies of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Iran. A direct rail link, already been tested between Beijing and London, is to be extended to other major European capitals.

China is also studying the building of a Central American railroad as an alternative to the Panama Canal which is incapable of receiving ships with extra-large containers.

In Africa, China has not only established itself as the biggest trading partner but is also emerging as the” wise old aunt” who could bash heads together and persuade local rivals not to upset the apple cart.

In sub-Saharan Africa, China has replaced the United States, not to mention the old colonial powers such as France and Britain, as the principal influence-wielding big power.

On a broader scale, the spectacle of President Trump and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson begging China to “do something” about North Korea’s provocative behavior is a good indicator of Beijing’s growing influence.

Even in the so-called Shanghai Group, a Chinese initiative, it is now Russia hat is asserting itself as the ringleader with the backing of former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

It is not hard to see that China is all over the place. Or is it?

The question is pertinent because the People’s Republic has not been able or has been unwilling to forge a correspondence between its economic power and its political role on the global scene. Economically high profile, it remains low profile politically, earning the sobriquet of “Economic Giant, Political Dwarf”.

Part of this is a matter of choice. Chinese leaders know that they govern a country that is still ridden by deep-rooted poverty and infrastructural backwardness. In terms of per capita income, China is still poorer than Iran, and even the Maldives islands. In terms of life-expectancy it is world number 102 among 198 nations.

Thus, Chinese leaders have preferred to remain essentially focused on domestic issues with priority to rapid economic growth. To them, getting involved in international politics seems a risky distraction.

However, the Chinese low profile has another reason: lack of experience in international affairs and the skilled manpower needed for punching below its weight in the diplomatic arena. It is interesting that not a single high profile international post is filled by a Chinese diplomat when diplomats from even Burma and Ghana have held the position of United Nations’ Secretary-General.

Rather than imitating the British or French styles of empire-building in the 19th century, China has opted for the Dutch model of going for a trade and leaving politics to others. But is such a strategy sustainable? You might not want to go after politics but what if politics comes after you?

This is one of the questions likely to be raised at the five-day 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China due to open next Tuesday.

Though China has historically poor relations with neighbors, except Pakistan, it has a neutral profile elsewhere, notably in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America if only because it does not bear the burden of a colonial and/or hegemonic past.

Because the Party’s congresses are prepared in secret it is hard to know whether or not a major review of the nation’s foreign policy is included in deliberations. Next week’s congress will have two priorities.

The first is to consolidate Xi Jinping’s position as “supreme leader”, something more than mere Secretary-General.

This could be done by bestowing on him a lofty title as was the case with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. President Xi, expected to be unanimously re-elected for a further five-year term, could also strengthen his position by propelling his protégés into key positions in the Central Committee, the Politburo, the Politburo Standing Committee, the Committee for Discipline and Inspection, and the Military Committee, the party’s five key decision-making organs.

The second priority is a change of generations at the top the hierarchy with new figures born in the 1960s or later moving up the ladder. A majority of the 2300 delegates slated to attend belong to the “new generation.”

The new putative leadership consists of individuals with some experience of the outside world, often through studying in the United States and Western Europe. That could provide a greater understanding of world politics and a keener taste for getting involved.

One thing is certain: the international scene is in turmoil and Russia and the United States, still burdened by memories of the Cold War, might not always be able to provide the answers needed.

For its part the European Union, its economic power notwithstanding, cannot mobilize public opinion for a greater political role internationally. India, another rising power, is bogged down by its surrealistic quarrel with Pakistan while hopes of Brazil emerging as a big player have faded; maybe for decades.

In other words, there is room for China to become a key player in global politics.
Will she want that​​?

We shall know the answer in Beijing next week.

Catalonia Suspends Declaration of Independence for Talks with Madrid

Catalonia

Crisis talks will be held in Spain on Wednesday after Catalan leaders suspended a declaration of independence on Tuesday in favor of dialogue with Madrid.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will chair an emergency cabinet meeting a day after Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont signed a suspended declaration of independence and called for negotiations with Madrid.

Puigdemont said on Tuesday that he had accepted “the mandate of the people for Cataloniato become an independent republic” following a banned referendum earlier this month.

In a much-anticipated speech to the Catalan parliament, ringed by thousands of protesters and hundreds of armed police, Puigdemont made only a symbolic declaration on Tuesday, claiming a mandate to launch secession but suspending any formal steps to that end.

“We aren’t criminals, nor crazy, nor coup plotters, nor abducted,” he said. “We are normal people who ask to be allowed to vote and who have been ready for all the dialogue necessary to achieve it in an agreed way.

“I assume … the mandate that Catalonia become an independent state in the form of a republic,” he said to prolonged applause.

“I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks in the coming weeks without which it is not possible to reach an agreed solution.”

Spain’s political establishment rounded on Puigdemont following the declaration, and support among separatists in Catalonia was mixed.

Deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told reporters shortly after the signing that Puigdemont was “a person who doesn’t know where he is, where he’s going or with whom he wants to go”.

But the speech pleased financial markets, boosting the euro on hopes that his gesture would mark a de-escalation of Spain’s worst political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981.

Rajoy has vowed to use everything in his power to prevent independence and has refused to rule out imposing direct rule over the semi-autonomous region — an unprecedented move many fear could lead to unrest.

At stake is the future of a region of 7.5 million people, one of Spain’s economic powerhouses, whose drive to break away has raised concern for stability in the European Union.

In Brussels, there was a sense of relief that the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy now had at least bought some time to deal with a crisis that was still far from over.

European Council President Donald Tusk had urged Puigdemont not to proclaim independence. And French President Emmanuel Macron rejected Puigdemont’s call for European Union mediation, saying he was confident Madrid could handle the situation.

One EU official said Puigdemont “seems to have listened to advice not to do something irreversible”.

Spain and Catalonia now enter into the unknown, as Madrid has repeatedly said independence is not up for discussion.

Marc Cazes, a student in Barcelona, said: “I did not expect independence to be declared today because of all the processes that the government of Spain has begun, both with police actions and with threats.”

Catalonia pressed ahead with an independence referendum on October 1 that the central government said breached Spain’s constitution.

The Catalan government said 90 percent of those who voted backed independence but turnout was only 43 percent as many opponents of independence stayed at home.

Demands for independence in Catalonia, which has its own language and cultural traditions, date back centuries.

But a 2010 move by Spain’s Constitutional Court to water down a statute that gave Catalonia additional powers, combined with a deep economic meltdown in Spain, sparked a surge in support for independence.

Ireland Wants EU Role in Palestinian-Israeli Peace Negotiations

Coveney

Tallinn (Estonia) – Ireland called on the European Union to play a greater role in US-led efforts to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Speaking to EU foreign ministers at a meeting on Middle East policy in Tallinn, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that the union has a task to get its voice heard in any new American initiative as the Palestinians’ biggest aid donor and Israel’s top trade partner..

Israelis and Palestinians will face more unrest over the next year without a revival of a long-fractured Middle East peace process that the EU must be part of, he added.

Coveney, who met Israeli and Palestinian leaders less than a month after taking up his post in June, is leading the charge to involve the EU in a fresh attempt at peace talks and overcome divisions that have weakened the bloc’s influence.

“My concern is that it will be a much more difficult political challenge in a year’s time or in two years’ time,” Coveney told Reuters.

“If you look at cycles of violence in Gaza, for example, without intervention and new initiatives in my view, we are heading there again,” he stated, describing the Israel-Palestinian situation as an “open sore” that could erupt at any time.

Coveney has also met Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, and said it was crucial that the EU sought to influence US plans that are being drawn up by Greenblatt and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Coveney stressed that EU governments had to pull together and keep the focus on a two-state solution.

“Now is the time for the European Union … to become more vocal,” said Coveney, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in July.

Coveney explained that the European Union had a right to be heard because EU governments and the European Commission spend 600 million euros ($724 million) a year on aid to the Palestinians and on projects with Israel.

“We cannot simply wait for the US to take an initiative on their own, we should be supportive of them and helping them to shape it and design it in a way that is likely to have international community support,” he said, although he added he still did not know what the US proposals would look like.

“In the absence of the US being able to bring forward a new initiative, I think the EU will have to do that itself.”

Hurdles for the European Union include its range of positions, ranging from Germany’s strong support for Israel to Sweden’s 2014 decision to officially recognize the state of Palestine, something Ireland considered three years ago.

Coveney said the European Union is also perceived by some in Israel as being too pro-Palestinian, partly because of the EU’s long-held opposition to Israeli settlements.

But Coveney noted that the European Union could build trust with Israel by deepening ties in trade, science, scholarships for students and to pursue what he called “a positive agenda”.

The EU aims to hold a high-level meeting with Israel to broaden trade and other economic links later this year, although a date is still pending. It would be the first such meeting since 2012.

Turkey Slams German Stance on Ending its Negotiations to Join EU

Turkey

Turkey reacted angrily on Monday to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s declaration on Sunday that Ankara must not join the European Union.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman accused German politicians of surrendering to populism after Merkel said she would seek to end talks on Turkey’s accession to the EU.

“Attacking Turkey-Erdogan and ignoring Germany’s and Europe’s fundamental and urgent problems are a reflection of a lack of vision,” Ibrahim Kalin said in a tirade on Twitter.

Kalin said this was a “surrender to populism and marginalization/hostility (which) only fuels discrimination and racism”.

Relations between the two countries have been strained since last year’s failed coup in Turkey and Berlin’s strong condemnation of Erdogan following a subsequent crackdown that has seen more than 50,000 people arrested.

In a televised with challenger Martin Schulz on Sunday ahead of elections on September 24, Merkel said it was “clear that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union”.

Merkel said she would discuss with EU counterparts if “we can end these membership talks”, adding: “I don’t see (Turkey) ever joining and I had never believed that it would happen.”

Schulz had also promised to push for an end to Turkey’s EU negotiations if elected chancellor.

Merkel’s spokesman reiterated her stance on Monday.

“The chancellor’s words speak for themselves,” Steffen Seibert, told a regular government news conference in Berlin.

“At the moment, Turkey is not at all in a position to join the European Union. In fact, the negotiations are dormant at the moment,” he said, adding that EU leaders would pick up the issue when they meet in October.

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said on Monday that any talk of ending his country’s negotiations for EU accession amounted to an “attack on Europe’s founding principles”.

“They are building a Berlin wall with bricks of populism,” he tweeted. Turkey will “keep going with its head held high as a European country and a European democracy,” he said.

Meanwhile, the EU executive said that the actions of the Turkish authorities are making it “impossible” for the country to join the Union.

Quoting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker from last week, before Merkel’s election campaign comment, the Commission’s chief spokesman told a regular news briefing: “Turkey is taking giant strides away from Europe and that is making it impossible for Turkey to join the European Union.”

He stressed, however, that any decision on whether to formally halt the long-stalled membership process would be up to the 28 member states of the bloc, not the Brussels executive.

Experience Gives Merkel Edge in Sole Televised Debate ahead of Germany Polls

Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced off on Sunday with Social Democrat (SPD) rival Martin Schulz in the only televised debate ahead of the country’s September 24 elections.

Merkel, who is running for a fourth term in office, used her experience on the global scene to her advantage, emerging the winner in the debate.

She had to however fend of Schulz’s attack on her refugee policy, ties with Turkey and handling of US President Donald Trump.

Merkel was some 14 points ahead of in opinion polls before the debate. A survey by Infratest Dimap for ARD television showed her overall performance was viewed as more convincing by 55 percent, compared to 35 percent for Schulz.

Three weeks from voting day, the center-left contender went on the offensive from the outset of the 97-minute debate with Merkel, who looked rattled at times but showed enough authority to win.

Schulz, 61, outfoxed Merkel on ties with Turkey and bounced her into beefing up her rhetoric by vowing to stop Ankara’s bid to join the European Union if he was elected chancellor.

After initially cautioning against pulling the plug on accession talks right now, Merkel returned to the issue of Turkey even when the moderators had moved on to a question about Trump’s policy toward North Korea.

“It is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU,” she said after Schulz made his pledge to stop Ankara’s accession bid.

“I’ll speak to my (EU) colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks,” Merkel, 63, added in comments likely to worsen already strained ties with Ankara.

In their exchange on Trump and North Korea, Schulz accused the US president of “bringing the world to the brink of crisis with his tweets” and said Germany should work with its European partners, Canada, Mexico and Trump’s domestic US opponents.

Merkel added that she had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron about North Korea on Sunday and would talk to Trump, as well as leaders from Russia, China, Japan and South Korea in the coming days.

“I don’t think that one can solve this conflict without the American President,” she said. “But I think one must say in the clearest terms that for us, there can only be a peaceful diplomatic solution.”

Her show of experience appeared to work with voters. The ARD poll showed that 49 percent of those surveyed viewed Merkel as being more credible while 29 percent favored Schulz.

Merkel has been chancellor since 2005 and is widely seen as Europe’s most influential politician.

She has weathered storms over mass immigration and financial and political turmoil in the European Union, while the SPD, Germany’s oldest party, has struggled to promote a strong rival.

In the debate, he attacked her for failing to coordinate a better European response to the refugee crisis in 2015, when Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees, many fleeing war in the Middle East, cost her support.

“The inclusion of our European neighbors would have been better,” Schulz said. Merkel shot back: “We had a very dramatic situation then … There are times in the life of a chancellor when she has to decide.”

Schulz, a former European Parliament president with no national government experience in Germany, looked directly into the camera when making his closing remarks and appealed to voters to show the courage to choose change.

But he refused to rule out a coalition with the far-left Linke. Merkel, ruling out a rise in the retirement age to 70 as some in her party have suggested, said she would not join forces with the Linke or the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

German opposition leaders meanwhile complained that Merkel and Schulz left key issues unmentioned in their single televised debate.

Anton Hofreiter, the caucus leader of the opposition Greens — a potential coalition partner for both leaders — said they spent too little time on Germany’s future during the debate.

He said neither leader spoke about climate protection or education, or said much about the impact of technological development. He scored the debate as a draw on ARD television Monday.

Linke leader Katja Kipping said: “Issues that I know from speaking to people really worry them barely came up at all.”

Shoukry Seeks to Promote Egypt’s Relations with Baltic States

Shoukry

Cairo – Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry concluded his European tour on Tuesday, which took him to Estonia and Lithuania, preceded by a visit to Russia, during which he discussed the development of bilateral relations and the exchange of support and coordination in international forums, especially at the level of the European Union.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said Shoukry delivered a letter from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Estonia’s President Kersti Kaljulaid on the development of bilateral relations.

Kaljulaid expressed her appreciation to Egypt’s leadership and people, noting the centrality of the Egyptian role in enhancing security and stability in the Middle East and Africa and in confronting terrorism.

The spokesman pointed out that the visit came within the framework of Egypt’s keenness to strengthen bilateral relations with Estonia and the Baltic states in general, in light of their growing role as an influential force within the European Union.

Abu Zeid said that Shoukry’s visit to Estonia and Lithuania was the first made by an Egyptian foreign minister to these two countries.

He added that the Egyptian official held intensive meetings with his Estonian counterpart and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Estonian Parliament. He stressed to him Egypt’s trust in Estonia’s current presidency of the European Union in the wake of unprecedented challenges at all levels, especially the fierce recent terrorist attacks in Europe.

Abu Zeid noted that meetings touched on a number of regional and international issues of common concern, such as migration, international security and combating terrorism. He pointed out that the Estonian side underlined the importance of continuing to strengthen cooperation between Egypt and the European Union.

On bilateral relations between Egypt and Estonia, Shoukry stressed the importance of enhancing the prospects of cooperation in various economic and investment fields and presented the positive results of Egypt’s economic reform program and efforts to bolster the investment climate in the country.

US, Russia Fight over European Energy Market

gas

London – The American-Russian competition over the European energy market has reached a fever pitch in recent days, which is threatening a “bitter battle” between the two traditional rivals, especially in wake of the turbulence the ties have endured under US President Donald Trump’s tenure.

In a report published on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal stated that US attempts to export natural gas into Europe’s energy market are facing stiff resistance from the region’s dominant player: Russia. The newspaper pointed out that a tanker is scheduled to arrive in Lithuania this week carrying the first shipment of US liquefied natural gas to a former Soviet republic. It follows a handful of other shipments of US gas to Europe and comes in the wake of widespread predictions that American exports would help break Russia’s dominance of the European energy market.

The report added that Russia, however, is moving quickly to contain the new competition to its largest energy market. Its state-run energy companies are lowering prices, changing sales methods and developing their own LNG facilities. Moscow is also pushing ahead with a pipeline into Europe, which is opposed by both Washington and Brussels.

WSJ continued: “While European governments are eager to reduce Russia’s choke-hold, and its resulting political leverage, the region’s consumers are looking beyond politics for the lowest prices. That favors Russia. Last year, Russia exported record levels of gas to Europe, helped by lower prices and falling domestic production elsewhere in Europe”.

The report quoted Russia’s energy minister, Alexander Novak in an interview last month as saying: “We are tracking the situation on the global gas market and the growth of US shale gas production. Recently we have allocated a lot of efforts to boost our presence on the LNG market.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, many analysts still expect America’s nascent exports to eat into Russia’s share of the European market, which is currently around one-third. The US shale revolution has unlocked vast energy reserves, and the country is expected to become a net natural gas exporter next year.

Since the start of 2016, the US has been exporting gas around the world, from Latin America to Asia.

The report revealed that some lawmakers and officials in Washington have also talked about energy exports to Europe having a geopolitical, as well as commercial, benefit. The US has long criticized what it sees as Russian interference in Eastern Europe.

It added that in July, Trump told representatives of a dozen European nations that the US is eager to export energy supplies to them. It is known that the United States, with its growing use of shale gas, aims to become a global exporter of gas. This pushed American companies to seek new markets and compete with Russia over the European market.

In early August, the US president approved new sanctions against Moscow after succumbing to Congress’ pressure. These sanctions threaten to target the Russian energy sector, which has long been excluded from the trade measures taken against Moscow following the Ukrainian crisis.

For its part, Moscow hinted it will respond to the US measures.

Although Europe itself has already issued a number of sanctions against Moscow, its countries do not seem entirely happy about the US actions. Some have rejected such efforts.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Washington’s measures violate international law, adding that the United States is confusing political and economic interests. He also pointed out that US plans to expel Russian gas from the European market in order to replace it with American gas is completely inappropriate.

The Europeans also stated that they are unwilling to waive the Russian gas or the “North Sea” line, which will increase the pumping of Russian gas into the main areas of the European continent. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, explicitly warned the United States, saying that the European Union is ready to impose sanctions against it in case Washington harmed European economic interests.

During the first quarter of 2017, Russian gas supplies to Europe maintained closeness to record levels, covering 41 percent of the continent’s imports, according to a report by the European Commission.

In contrast, US natural gas production has doubled since 2005 faster than consumption. The United States is expected to officially become a gas exporter next year, said a report by the US Department of Energy.

China Imposes Restrictions on Investments Abroad

London- China has imposed new restrictions on Chinese companies’ overseas investments, preventing them from working in many sectors, such as sports clubs, hotels, cinemas, real estate and entertainment.

After it long motivated its companies’ overseas acquisitions, Beijing abruptly changed its speech in late 2016, and warned from “irrational” acquisitions.

The Chinese government announced on Friday that overseas investment, which is inconsistent with China’s diplomacy for peaceful development, and the mutually beneficial cooperation and macroeconomic regulation, will be restricted, noting that it wants to “avoid risks”.

The Chinese government added that Chinese companies would not be able to make more investments in countries or regions experiencing wars or those with no diplomatic relations with the country.

The directive also prohibits investments that could harm the interests and security of the country. It referred in particular to the production of “unauthorized” military equipment and technology, pornography and gambling.

The announcement came after Chinese businessman Gao Zhisheng has partnered in the capital of the English football club Thothampton. According to the British press, the Gao family has acquired 80 percent of the shares at about 200 million pounds (220 million euros).

A large number of European clubs have attracted capital from China three years ago: in Spain (Atletico Madrid and Barcelona), in Britain (Aston Villa, West Bromwich and Manchester City), France (Sochaux and Auxerre), and Italy (Inter Milan and AC Milan).

Large Chinese groups in Europe and the United States have also bought stakes in banks, hotels, studios and cinemas.
But China has anxiously considered these acquisitions, which are causing huge indebtedness to China’s financial system, while high-risk acquisitions are being investigated.

Only investments that support the real economy or advanced technology are allowed.

As a result, Chinese investment abroad fell by 46% in the first half of 2017 to $ 48 billion, according to the government.

On Friday, the United States officially launched a commercial investigation into China’s intellectual property practices and the forced transfer of U.S. technology, to which President Donald Trump called this week.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement: “Last Monday, President Trump asked me to review the Chinese laws, policies and practices that could harm intellectual property rights, innovation and US technological development.”

“After negotiations with stakeholders and government agencies, I decided that these critical issues deserve an inclusive investigation,” he said.

Foreign companies have long complained about Beijing’s failure to protect patents. In some cases, Beijing forced institutions to share information with local Chinese partners, as a price that should be paid to invest in the huge Chinese market and set up projects.

However, because foreign companies are afraid of being banned from entering the Chinese market, they have not pressed their governments to take action.

“We will protect intellectual property, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and any intellectual property that is vital to our security and prosperity,” Lighthizer said. He added that the United States would not again tolerate Beijing’s “theft” of US industrial secrets.

Lighthizer has launched the investigation under the article 301 of the US Trade Law on Intellectual Property. Beijing responded this week by warning that “everyone will lose” if a trade war ignites between the world’s two largest economies.

For their parts, governments of Germany, France and Italy resorted to the European Commission to prevent foreign investors from taking unwanted acquisitions over European companies.

Der Spiegel magazine reported Saturday that German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries sent a cable to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to highlight China’s growing efforts to acquire European technology companies.

In the cable, Zypries called the European countries to reject or restrict such deals.

The German Economy Minister explained that such transactions should not be allowed if there is interference from the state of incoming investments that encourage or support acquisition deals or offering unrealistic prices for contracts.

Despite that the cable assessed the flow of foreign capital as “positive development”, the minister pointed out that China’s unilateral long-term focus on technology and technology has been monitored in the light of China’s 2025 strategy.

The strategy aims to support Chinese industries. The cable pointed out that the Chinese market in return is still closed to European investment in many areas.

The Minister, therefore, called for granting the EU countries additional rights to stand out to unwanted acquisitions. Der Spiegel reported that according to officials from the German Ministry of Economy, the contributions of Chinese companies in Germany have lately increased significantly. According to data, Chinese contributions in the German market 21 transactions since the beginning of this year, more than double compared to the same period last year.