China is saddling poor nations with unsustainable debt through large-scale infrastructure projects that are not economically viable, the head of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) said on Monday.
The criticism of Beijing – targeted by President Donald Trump in a trade war that has sent ripples through economies around the world – comes as Washington seeks to ramp up development finance in the face of China’s global ambitions.
Unveiled in 2013, President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road” initiative aims to build an infrastructure network connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
China has pledged $126 billion for the plan, which has been praised by its supporters as a source of vital financing for infrastructure-starved partners in the developing world.
But in an interview with Reuters in Johannesburg, OPIC CEO Ray Washburne warned that the Chinese strategy created a debt trap for many poor nations.
“Just look at any project in these countries and they’re overbuilding the size,” he said. “We try to have countries realise that they’re indebting themselves to the Chinese.”
Washburne is not the first to warn of growing debt linked to Chinese infrastructure projects.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde in April cautioned China’s Belt and Road partners against considering the financing as “a free lunch”.
Sri Lanka formally handed over commercial activities in its main southern port in the town of Hambantota to a Chinese company in December as part of a plan to convert $6 billion of loans that Sri Lanka owes China into equity.
Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has appointed a new Army Chief who is under international sanctions for the violent repression of dissent, raising fears of an imminent crackdown.
State television reported on Sunday that Kabila had appointed General John Numbi to the role of inspector general of the Congolese Armed Forces. Numbi has been placed under sanctions by the United States, European Union and Switzerland for alleged killings of scores of civilians by forces controlled by him over several years.
His promotion was part of a reshuffle in which also saw General Gabriel Amisi, himself under sanctions for abuses and for selling weapons to rebel groups responsible for massacring civilians, was promoted to army deputy chief of staff.
Twelve Russian intelligence officers were indicted by a United States grand jury on Friday, just three days before President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the charges were drawn up by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who is looking into Russian interference in the November 2016 vote.
Rosenstein told reporters the Russian military officers were accused of “conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” including by hacking Democratic Party emails ahead of the vote.
“Eleven of the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents, and release those documents with the intent to interfere in the election,” he said.
“One of those defendants and a 12th Russian are charged with conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations involved in administering elections.”
Rosenstein said he had briefed Trump about the indictment before Friday’s announcement.
Trump, who is currently visiting Britain, is scheduled to meet with Putin in Helsinki on Monday.
Mexico strongly condemned US President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday for its policy of separating immigrant children and parents detained after crossing the US-Mexican border, calling it “inhuman.”
“In the name of the Mexican government and people, I want to express our most categorical and energetic condemnation of this cruel and inhuman policy,” Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told a press conference.
“We call on the United States government, at the highest level, to reconsider this policy and give priority to the wellbeing and rights of these boys and girls, regardless of their nationality and immigration status.”
The Trump administration faces a growing swell of condemnation at home and abroad for the separations, the product of a “zero-tolerance” policy on undocumented migrants.
The United Nations, international rights groups, Christian evangelicals, the pope, former US first ladies and prominent figures in the president’s own Republican party have all criticised the policy.
Guatemala expressed its “concern” Tuesday over the policy and its effects. The human rights ombudsmen of Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras meanwhile petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington to intervene to block the “dangerous” policy.
US officials say more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents or guardians since early May, when the “zero-tolerance” policy was announced.
Lawmakers who visited minors in detention in Texas and California have described crying children held in cage-like conditions behind chain-link fencing, with no idea when they will see their parents again.
A defiant Trump has vowed to prevent the United States from becoming a “migrant camp” and accused the opposition Democratic party of causing the crisis by blocking immigration reform legislation.
The vast majority of separated families come from Central America, where brutal gangs have made their countries among the most violent in the world. Around one percent of the detained children are Mexican, said Videgaray.
US-Mexican relations have been strained since Trump won election in 2016 after a campaign laced with anti-Mexican barbs and promises to build a wall on the two countries’ border and make Mexico pay for it.
US tariffs on Mexican steel and aluminum, Trump’s insistence on overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and his attacks on migrants have only added to the tension.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended the “zero tolerance” policy leading to thousands of migrant families being split on the US border as the only effective way to fight illegal immigration.
“I don’t want children taken away from parents,” he told a gathering of small business owners, before adding: “When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away.”
“We don’t have to prosecute them, but then we are not prosecuting them for coming in illegally. That’s not good.”
US officials say more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents or guardians since early May, when the administration announced its push to arrest and charge anyone illegally crossing the US-Mexico border, regardless of whether they were seeking asylum.
Since children cannot be sent to the facilities where their parents are held, they are separated from them.
A chorus of critics — rights groups, Christian evangelicals, former US first ladies and some within the president’s own Republican party — are demanding an immediate end to the family separations.
But a defiant Trump has vowed America will not become a “migrant camp.”
“We don’t want people pouring into our country,” he told Tuesday’s gathering. “We want ultimately a merit-based system where people come in based on merit.”
Hammering home the need to combat smugglers who he said “game the system,” Trump accused the media of helping human traffickers.
“Those who apply for asylum legally at ports of entry are not prosecuted. The fake news media back there doesn’t talk about that,” he charged.
“They are fake,” he said. “They are helping these smugglers and these traffickers like nobody would believe.”
Trump was headed later Tuesday to Congress to huddle with Republican lawmakers, many of whom are deeply uncomfortable with the separation policy.
The president has accused Democrats of provoking the crisis by blocking legislation to combat illegal immigration.
“We want to end the border crisis by finally giving us the legal authorities and the resources to detain and remove illegal immigrant families all together and bring them back to their country,” he said.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is expected to consider two immigration bills.
One is a hardline measure favoured by conservatives, and the other a compromise bill — which the White House has signalled has Trump’s support — that would end family separations, protect so-called Dreamer immigrants brought to the country as children, pay for boosted border security and curtail legal immigration.
Tuesday’s Republican huddle will be closely watched, in part to see whether any lawmakers directly confront the president.
Several House Republicans face tough re-election fights in November, and some may worry that public outrage over the family separations could hurt their chances.
Democrats say the crisis is of Trump’s own making, and accuse him of using children as pawns.
China has more to lose than the United States in the two nations’ burgeoning trade dispute but Washington remains open to dialogue with its largest trading partner, a senior White House advisor said Tuesday.
Trade brinkmanship between Washington and Beijing continued late Monday when President Donald Trump threatened to put fresh duties on between $200 billion and $400 billion in Chinese imports.
The possible new duties, which could cover the lion’s share of all of China’s exports to the United States, were a response to retaliatory Chinese levies on up to $50 billion in US goods announced Friday.
With Wall Street sliding further into the red on Tuesday and nerves on edge among lawmakers in Trump’s Republican Party, senior White House economic aide Peter Navarro defended the new trade policy.
“It’s clear that China does have much more to lose,” he told reporters, noting that China exported more than $500 billion to the US last year, far more than the $130 billion it imported from the United States.
Navarro reiterated Washington’s accusations that China had used a string of unfair practices — cyber-theft, state-sponsored corporate acquisitions, forced technology transfers and export restrictions — to target global dominance in advanced new industrial sectors.
“It is important to note here that the actions President Trump has taken are purely defensive in nature,” Navarro said. “They are designed to defend the crown jewels of American technology from China’s aggressive behaviour.”
These included aerospace, advanced rail and shipping, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, biotechnology, new energy vehicles, precision farming and robotics, said Navarro.
“These are the future of the world and of America and China cannot have 70 per cent of production of these industries by 2025,” he added, referring to a Chinese industrial development plan denounced by Washington.
Navarro said US officials planned to cushion against the blows to American industries and workers in the United States and present in China but declined to elaborate on any plans to help the US farming sector.
“President Trump will have the backs of all Americans who may be targeted by Chinese actions and with respect to the farmers in Iowa or any other state,” Navarro said.
Efforts to convince Beijing to change its ways had so far failed despite several rounds of transpacific diplomacy, he added.
“Our phone lines are open. They have always been open,” said Navarro.
“The fundamental reality is talk is cheap. Delay is expensive.”
United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, has announced the sum of $102 million in humanitarian assistance to Nigeria.
The funds will be administered primarily through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) offices of Food for Peace (FFP) and Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), as well as the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration.
During the ‘National Conversation on the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus’ on Friday, Symington said the funds will address the shelter, health and food security needs of populations in northeast Nigeria, who are battling with the effects of the Boko Haram insurgency.
“These funds for Nigeria represent the vast majority of the U.S. government’s new $112 million infusions for the Lake Chad region,” the ambassador said.
“Our hope is that this new investment in humanitarian assistance will combine with the efforts of your government and people to move Nigeria forward on a path to peace and prosperity.”
The funding, Symington added, would provide life-saving aid to hundreds of thousands of people, including emergency food assistance, nutrition treatment, shelter, health services, safe drinking water, services for survivors of sexual violence, and support to children who have been separated from their families.
President Xi Jinping hailed China’s ties with Russia as he treated Vladimir Putin to a state visit on Friday to bring the neighbouring giants closer in the face of US diplomatic and economic challenges.
The Russian leader joined Xi to review a military honour guard and greet flag-waving children at a welcome ceremony before talks in Beijing’s grandiose Great Hall of the People.
“No matter what fluctuations there are in the international situation, China and Russia have always firmly taken the development of relations as a priority,” Xi told Putin.
The two nations have also “resolutely supported each other’s core interests”, developed trade ties and proactively participated in global governance to promote a “community of common destiny”, Xi said.
The most powerful Russian and Chinese leaders in decades, Xi and Putin have forged closer ties as US President Donald Trump has labelled both countries as economic rivals that challenge US interests and values.
Putin later said the two heads of state had enjoyed “fruitful” talks.
He said, “The relationship between Russia and China is a friendly, neighbourly one, developing in states in the spirit of over-arching strategic partnership.”
Analysts remarked on the similar leadership styles of the men.
Xi and Putin are “soulmates who want to make their countries great again”, Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told AFP.
“Both share scepticism towards American hegemony and distrust US intentions, both are authoritarian personalistic rulers,” he said.
Putin was re-elected to a fourth Kremlin term in March. That same month, Xi was given a path to indefinite rule when the Communist-led rubber-stamp parliament lifted presidential term limits.
China is mired in tough negotiations with the United States to avoid a trade war, while Moscow has deep differences with Washington on multiple diplomatic fronts, including Syria and Ukraine.
Putin played up his bond with his “good friend” Xi in an interview with China’s state broadcaster CGTN this week.
He said the Chinese president was the only state leader to celebrate his birthday with him, with the two sharing vodka and sausage.
Xi “is approachable and sincere”, Putin told CGTN. “But he’s also a very dependable man to work with.”
Maria Repnikova, director of the Center for Global Information Studies at Georgia State University in the US, said China makes Russia look “stronger and more relevant” on the global stage.
For its part, Russia allows China to show the US that it has “other options” in international negotiations, she said.
“Trump’s policies justified (the) growing closeness, especially for Russia but also for China given the volatile relationship with the United States,” Repnikova told AFP.
But, she said, “it’s an asymmetrical relationship with Russia more dependent on China than vice versa, especially in the economic sphere”.
After the Beijing visit, Putin will join Xi at a weekend summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao.
China and Russia lead the regional security group, which includes former Soviet states and new members India and Pakistan.
Putin told CGTN that the SCO had “small” objectives when it was founded two decades ago but that it was now evolving into a larger global force.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose country is an observer member of the SCO, will also attend the summit at a time when China and Russia are seeking to save the Iran nuclear deal following Trump’s withdrawal from the pact.
United States and North Korean officials met on Sunday at a border truce village as preparations resumed for a high-stakes, high-drama summit that President Donald Trump said held “brilliant potential” for the North.
“I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial Nation one day,” Trump said on Twitter.
“Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this. It will happen!,” the president said, confirming that a US team “has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the summit” between himself and North Korean leader Kim.
His upbeat language contrasted sharply to that of only three days earlier, when Trump cancelled the planned summit, citing “open hostility” from the North. An extraordinary flurry of diplomacy since then — much of it led by South Korea — appears to have put the meeting back on track.
Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met Saturday at the Panmunjom border truce village, in a surprise bid to salvage the June 12 summit planned for Singapore.
Announcing the lower-level talks held Sunday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “We continue to prepare for a meeting between the President and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.”
The Washington Post reported that the US delegation to the Panmunjom meeting — in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea — was led by Sung Kim, a former US ambassador to South Korea and former nuclear negotiator with the North. It said the Americans met with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui.
The United States currently has no ambassador to South Korea, even as it takes up one of the most delicate diplomatic challenges in years.
It remains far from clear how Trump and Kim might be able to bridge what appear to be vast differences in their expectations for what would be a historic meeting. But analysts on Sunday expressed increasing confidence that it will take place.
Days of brinkmanship
The apparent progress in the on-again-off-again talks followed a tense and turbulent few days of diplomatic brinkmanship.
Within 24 hours of cancelling the summit Trump reversed course, saying it could still go ahead after productive talks were held with North Korean officials.
“It’s moving along very nicely,” Trump said at the White House on Saturday. “We’re looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn’t changed.”
Trump’s abrupt decision to pull out of the historic get-together had blindsided South Korea and Moon, who had been brokering a remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang in a bid to avoid a devastating conflict.
But Trump accompanied the cancellation with a letter to Kim that mixed tough language with an almost beseeching plea to get things back on track. Some critics mocked the letter’s tone, but it may have achieved the desired result.
Kim ‘met his match’
James Clapper, director of US national intelligence under former president Barack Obama, told CNN: “I support the letter that President Trump sent… In some ways, Kim Jong Un may have met his match here with our very unconventional president.”
Victor Cha, who was President George W. Bush’s top advisor on North Korea and was briefly expected to get Trump’s nod as ambassador to South Korea, said Sunday he was now confident the summit will take place.
“The summit’s going forward” despite the unusually rushed pace of diplomacy and series of turnabouts.
The Moon and Trump administrations very much want the meeting, he said, “and Kim says he wants a summit, so it’s going to happen.”
There are still stark differences between what the two sides hope to achieve.
Washington wants North Korea to quickly give up all its nuclear weapons in a verifiable way in return for sanctions and economic relief.
Pyongyang has a different view of denuclearization and remains deeply worried that abandoning its deterrent would leave the country — and its leader — vulnerable, especially while the United States maintains a robust military presence in South Korea.
Kim “has almost an emotional attachment and a personal psychological attachment to these nuclear weapons,” US Senator Marco Rubio said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “They make him feel prestigious, they make him feel powerful.”
Rubio said he was extremely skeptical that Kim might actually give up his nuclear arsenal.
If Trump is unable to negotiate those weapons away and unwilling to live in a world where North Korea poses a nuclear threat, then “you’re going to have to do something to go after them at some point,” the senator said.
“It’s not something that I relish or take lightly,” Rubio said.
One day after abruptly pulling the plug on a high-stakes summit with North Korea, US President Donald Trump said Friday the meeting with Kim Jong Un could go ahead after all — possibly even on the originally scheduled date of June 12.
The summit would be an unprecedented meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, which Washington hopes will result in full denuclearization of the reclusive state.
“We’re going to see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House, after welcoming Pyongyang’s latest statement on the talks as “very good news.”
“It could even be the 12th,” he added.
On Thursday, Trump cancelled the summit that was due to take place in Singapore, blaming “tremendous anger and open hostility” from Pyongyang in recent days.
But North Korea responded Friday by saying it was willing to talk to the United States “at any time” — a reaction Trump welcomed as “warm and productive.”
“We’re talking to them now,” Trump said of the North Koreans. “They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.”
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said there was “possibly some good news” on the summit, while White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters: “If the meeting takes place on June 12, we will be ready.”
‘Twists and turns’
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert cast the fast-moving developments as simply “twists and turns” in the process.
“We never expected it to be easy,” Nauert told reporters.
But the whiplash from the White House was unusual even for the chaos-loving president. In March, apparently acting on impulse, Trump agreed to the talks with Kim after only limited input from aides.
In a letter to Kim, Trump blamed Kim’s regime for his decision to call off the summit, and warned North Korea against committing any “foolish or reckless acts” while also highlighting America’s “massive and powerful” nuclear capabilities.
First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump’s decision “unexpected” and “regrettable” but sounded a conciliatory tone, saying officials were willing “to sit face-to-face at any time.”
Just before Trump announced the cancellation of the meeting, North Korea declared it had “completely” dismantled its nuclear test site in the country’s far northeast, in a carefully choreographed goodwill gesture.
The US summit cancellation blindsided treaty ally South Korea, which until now had brokered a remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang, with President Moon Jae-in calling the move “shocking and very regrettable.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, however, he respected and supported the US president’s move.
China, Pyongyang’s sole major ally, urged the two foes to “show goodwill,” while Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held out hope the talks would eventually take place.
Politically, Trump had invested heavily in the success of the planned summit.
As the date drew nearer, however, a gulf in expectations between the two sides became apparent.
Before Trump’s announcement, Pyongyang had hardened its rhetoric, calling comments by Vice President Mike Pence “ignorant and stupid.”
Washington has made it clear it wants to see the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” of the North.
Pyongyang has vowed it will never give up its nuclear deterrent until it feels safe from what it terms US aggression.
The White House was unhappy about what it considered to be a “trail of broken promises” by North Korea — including failure to show up for summit preparatory talks and complaints about the latest US-South Korean joint military exercise.
It also was unhappy about the North’s failure to allow international observers to verify the dismantling of the Punggye-ri test site, the staging ground for all six of its nuclear tests.
But the North’s Kim Kye Gwan countered that Pyongyang’s angry statements were “just a backlash in response to harsh words from the US side that has been pushing for a unilateral denuclearization.”
Both Pence and Trump’s hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton had raised the specter of Libyan leader Moamer Khadafi, who gave up atomic weapons only to die years later at the hands of US-backed rebels.
Joel Wit, founder of the respected 38 North website which monitors North Korea, said Kim’s hand has been strengthened regardless of whether the summit goes ahead because recent weeks have seen him forge connections with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as with Russia and South Korea.
“Kim has created sort of a cushion for failure that if the US backs away, the Chinese and Russians will be behind him,” Wit said.
“If the United States tries to come back to the table, (Kim) may toughen up his negotiating position feeling that his political position has been strengthened.”
But others said Trump’s demonstrated willingness to walk away could yet extract further concessions from Pyongyang.
“North Korea will have to propose more detailed plans for denuclearization if it wants to talk in the future,” said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies.
U.S. stocks dropped on Thursday after President Donald Trump cancelled a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, while a slide in oil prices and bank stocks also weighed as investors grappled with fresh U.S. protectionist plans.
Trump said he cancelled a June 12 summit “based on the tremendous anger and open hostility” in Kim’s recent statement.
The move came after North Korean media reported earlier that the country had blown up tunnels at its nuclear test site, which had raised the possibility of the summit.
Trump on Wednesday ordered a national security probe into car and truck imports that could lead to new tariffs, with China calling the move an “abuse” of the clauses and saying it would defend its interests.
The decision added to jitters over the prospects of trade negotiations with China, reignited after Trump called for “a different structure” to any trade deal.
“The markets are adjusting now with lots of uncertainties, with China, North Korea, (and the prospect of) a trade war that could spill over to other parts of the economy and the world,” said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of 50 Park Investments in New York.
At 10:03 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average.DJI was down 129.77 points, or 0.52 percent, at 24,757.04, the S&P 500.SPX was down 13.55 points, or 0.50 percent, at 2,719.74 and the Nasdaq Composite.IXIC was down 31.17 points, or 0.42 percent, at 7,394.79.
Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors were in the red, with the technology sectors.SPLRCT 0.5 percent decline weighing the most. The decline accelerated after the North Korea-U.S. summit cancellation.
Shares of European and Asian automakers skidded on the possibility of import tariffs, while U.S. automakers gained.
Ford (F.N) was up 1.3 percent and General Motors (GM.N) gained 0.8 percent. U.S.-listed shares of Fiat (FCAU.N) fell 2.3 percent, while those of Ferrari (RACE.K) dipped 0.6 percent.
US President Donald Trump informed Kim Jong Un Thursday he is canceling their nuclear summit next month in Singapore, blaming “anger” and “hostility” from the North Korean regime for the collapse of the historic event.
Trump and Kim had been due to hold high-stakes talks on June 12 aimed at ridding the reclusive state of nuclear weapons, but the meeting was recently thrown into doubt as both sides raised the prospect of scrapping the discussions and traded threats.
Trump’s letter came a day after North Korea attacked US Vice President Mike Pence as “ignorant and stupid.”
“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim released by the White House.
“Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”
Trump also brandished the threat of America’s nuclear might in his letter, writing: “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”
The US leader’s letter appeared to leave the door open to a future meeting with Kim, however, stressing that he had been “very much looking forward to being there.”
“We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions” relative to the summit, he told Kim.
“I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters,” Trump said. “If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.
“The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.”
The decision came as North Korea said it had “completely” dismantled its nuclear test site, in a carefully choreographed move portrayed by the isolated regime as a goodwill gesture ahead of the Singapore summit.