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World & Canadian News Jan 26, 2017
Thursday, January 26, 2017 - 00:00
"The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there," Spicer said when asked if Trump agreed with comments by his secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson. On Jan. 11, Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea.
"It's a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we're going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country," Spicer said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing on Tuesday "the United States is not a party to the South China Sea dispute".
China claims most of the South China Sea, while Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei claims parts of the sea that commands strategic sealanes and has rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits.
China's sovereignty over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea was "irrefutable" Hua said. But China was also dedicated to protecting freedom of navigation and wants talks with nations directly involved to find a peaceful solution.
"We urge the United States to respect the facts, speak and act cautiously to avoid harming the peace and stability of the South China Sea," Hua said.
"Our actions in the South China Sea are reasonable and fair. No matter what changes happen in other countries, what they say or what they want to do, China's resolve to protect its sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea will not change," she added.
BAR ACCESS TO ISLANDS
Tillerson's remarks at his Senate confirmation hearing prompted Chinese state media to say at the time that the United States would need to "wage war" to bar China's access to the islands, where it has built military-length air strips and installed weapons systems.
Tillerson was asked at the hearing whether he supported a more aggressive posture toward China and said: "We're going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed."
The former Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) chairman and chief executive did not elaborate on what might be done to deny China access to the islands.
But analysts said his comments, like those of Spicer, suggested the possibility of U.S. military action, or even a naval blockade. Such action would risk an armed confrontation with China, an increasingly formidable nuclear-armed military power. It is also the world's second-largest economy and the target of Trump accusations it is stealing American jobs.
Spicer declined to elaborate when asked how the United States could enforce such a move against China, except to say: "I think, as we develop further, we'll have more information on it."
Tillerson narrowly won approval from a Senate committee on Monday and is expected to win confirmation from the full Senate.
RISK OF DANGEROUS ESCALATION
Military experts said that while the U.S. Navy has extensive capabilities in Asia to stage blockading operations with ships, submarines and planes, any such move against China's growing naval fleets would risk a dangerous escalation.
Aides have said that Trump plans a major naval build-up in East Asia to counter China's rise.
China's foreign ministry said earlier this month it could not guess what Tillerson meant by his remarks, which came after Trump questioned Washington's longstanding and highly sensitive "one-China" policy over Taiwan.
Washington-based South China Sea expert Mira Rapp-Hooper at the Center for a New American Security called the threats to bar China's access in the South China Sea "incredible" and said it had no basis in international law.
"A blockade - which is what would be required to actually bar access - is an act of war," she added.
"The Trump administration has begun to draw red lines in Asia that they will almost certainly not be able to uphold, but they may nonetheless be very destabilizing to the relationship with China, invite crises, and convince the rest of the world that the United States is an unreliable partner."
Bonnie Glaser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank called Spicer's remarks "worrisome" and said the new administration was "sending confusing and conflicting messages."
Dean Cheng, a China expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Spicer's remarks showed the South China Sea was an important issue for the Trump administration.
He said it was significant that neither Spicer nor Tillerson had been specific as to what actions would be taken and this left open the possibility that economic measures - instead of military steps - could be used against China and firms that carry out island building.
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington, and Christian Shepherd in Beijing; Editing by Andrew Hay and Bill Tarrant)
And in Canada
Two men shot and killed in Prince George in targeted double homicide
Global News/Jan. 25, 2017/ By Amy Judd
Two men were shot and killed in Prince George early Wednesday morning in what Prince George RCMP are calling a targeted attack.
Police were called at 2:40 a.m. Wednesday for a “shots fired” call on Foothills Boulevard near the intersection of North Nechako Road.
When officers arrived they found a vehicle with three adult men inside. Two of the men were pronounced dead at the scene while the third was rushed to hospital with what’s believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.
The Prince George RCMP’s Serious Crime Section is investigating.
Police have closed Foothills Boulevard from North Nechako Road to the Otway Road Overpass this morning and it’s expected this stretch will remain closed for several hours.
Police are asking anyone with information about this homicide or those responsible to contact the Prince George RCMP at (250) 561-3300 or anonymously contact Crime Stoppers at 1(800) 222-8477, online at www.pgcrimestoppers.bc.ca (English only), or Text-A-Tip to CRIMES (274637) using keyword “pgtips.”
Justin Trudeau says he misspoke when he said we need to ‘phase out’ oilsands
The Canadian Press /Jan. 24, 2017/By Lauren Krugel
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he should have chosen different words when he talked about phasing out the oilsands earlier this month and unleashed anger in economically ailing Alberta.
“I misspoke,” he said Tuesday at the end of a two-day cabinet retreat in downtown Calgary, where the prolonged downturn in oil prices has emptied out floors and floors of office space.
“I said something the way I shouldn’t have said it.”
Trudeau enraged many in Alberta when he said of the oilsands: “We need to phase them out.”
“We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels,” he told a town-hall meeting in Peterborough, Ont. “That is going to take time. And, in the meantime, we have to manage that transition.”
Alberta Opposition Leader Brian Jean responded by saying that Trudeau would have to go through him and four million other Albertans first.
The unemployment rate in Alberta, where the economy largely centers on the oil and gas sector, was at 8.5 per cent in December, higher than the national rate of 6.9 per cent. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs over the last few years.
Trudeau noted that he recently approved two major oil export pipelines: Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain line to the Vancouver area and Enbridge’s expanded Line 3 pipeline to the U.S. Midwest.
The Liberal government is also hopeful the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline, killed by former U.S. president Barack Obama in 2015, will soon be revived under the newly installed Trump administration. Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to push Keystone forward, although it was short of details.
Greenpeace campaigner Keith Stewart said Trudeau should admit the oilsands do need to be phased out – sooner rather than later.
“I understand that the prime minister is under enormous pressure to pretend that the oil boom will last forever, but a leader should be honest about what it will take to avoid dangerous levels of global warming,” he said.
“That means starting to phase out fossil fuels now and getting it done by the time my kids are my age. If we don’t manage that change, the world market will force it on us and the oil-price drop gave us a preview of what that looks like.”
Calgary student puts education on hold due to Phoenix pay system woes
CTVNews.ca/Jan. 24, 2017/By Nick Wells
A Calgary student is speaking out about having to defer her university studies after she says the federal government shortchanged her thousands of dollars in unpaid salary.
As of earlier this month, 8,000 federal employees still had issues with the Phoenix pay system.
Sydney Kallio spent four months this summer working for Parks Canada at Waterton Lakes National Park as a way to cover school costs.
"It's a beautiful place to work and to live," she told CTV Calgary. "I loved it, it was the dream job."
But she says the ongoing problems plaguing the federal government's pay system has left her short $6,000 and caused her to defer a university semester.
"I wanted to go back to school but I didn't think it was fair with owing my parents money and not having enough to live on my own," she said.
Kallio signed a four-month contract with Parks Canada, working 40 hours a week for $17.83 an hour.
However, she found she was underpaid by roughly $5 an hour and only listed as working 32 hours a week when she received her first paycheque, which was six weeks late. Coworkers were similarly underpaid.
"Every single one of those students were missing those cheques," she said.
When she questioned bosses about her paycheck, she was told to contact a help line.
"They had no access to any of our personal information," she said about the help line. "They were just there as a person to talk to and pass the message along."
Kallio says since sharing her story, a government representative reached out to promise that her back pay would be sorted out, but her co-workers have yet to be contacted.
Public Services and Procurement Canada says it will announce a status update on the backlog on Wednesday morning.
With a report from CTV Calgary's Bill Macfarlane
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