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Okinawa leaders stage anti-US military rally in Tokyo
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 27, 2013


US group visits Taiwan base amid subs speculation
Taipei (AFP) Jan 27, 2013 - A US congressional group paid a rare visit to a Taiwan naval base Sunday, a military source said, raising speculation about efforts to revive a US deal to provide the island with eight submarines.

The delegation, led by Edward Royce who is chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, arrived Saturday as part of a visit to East Asia, according to the de facto US embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan.

"While in Taiwan, the delegation will meet with senior leaders to discuss US-Taiwan relations, trade and other significant issues," it said in a statement.

The delegation visited the Tsoying naval base in the south for a briefing and boarded a warship Sunday before meeting Kaohsiung city mayor Chen Chu, the military source told AFP, without providing details.

The United States remains the leading arms supplier to Taiwan despite switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

In April 2001 then-President George W. Bush approved the sale of eight conventional submarines as part of Washington's most comprehensive arms package for the island since 1992.

Since then, however, there has been little progress in filling the order.

The United States has not built conventional submarines for more than 40 years and Germany and Spain reportedly declined to offer their designs for fear of offending China.

"The military will voice its desire to obtain the submarines while briefing the US congressional delegation, given Taiwan's pressing need," the Liberty Times quoted an unidentified officer as saying.

The Taiwanese navy currently has four submarines, but only two of them -- Dutch-built -- could be deployed in the event of war. The other two were built by the United States in the 1940s.

Tensions between Taiwan and China have eased markedly since President Ma Ying-jeou came to power on a platform of strengthening trade links and allowing more Chinese tourists to visit. Ma was re-elected in January.

But Taiwan, which has governed itself since 1949, still sees the need to modernise its armed forces because China regards the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Political leaders from Okinawa and their supporters staged a protest Sunday in the Japanese capital Tokyo against the heavy US military presence in their southern prefecture.

Organisers said some 4,000 people marched through the glitzy Ginza shopping district holding banners reading "Firmly against Osprey", a tilt-rotor US military aircraft said by opponents to be prone to accidents.

The rally was among the biggest involving Okinawan mayors and politicians since the island chain was returned to Japan from US control in 1972, according to national broadcaster NHK.

Police declined to estimate the number of demonstrators.

Marchers protested that the rest of Japan discriminates against Okinawa by forcing it to host more than half of the 47,000 US military personnel in Japan.

Okinawan residents have long opposed the heavy US military presence due to accidents and crimes committed by American soldiers.

"Our anger has been boiled to its peak," Takeshi Onaga, mayor of Naha city which is the prefectural capital, told the rally.

Okinawan leaders hope to meet government ministers Monday to press their case.

It was the latest of a series of protests and rallies held by Okinawan leaders and their supporters, as Tokyo attempts to expand its military alliance with Washington in the face of a more confident China.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also pledged to strengthen his own country's military as Tokyo and Beijing intensify disputes over islands in East China Sea.

Protestors march against Hong Kong leader
Hong Kong (AFP) Jan 27, 2013 - Around 1,000 people took to the streets of Hong Kong Sunday to protest against the city leader's policy speech, which they said offered nothing new on tackling a housing crisis and poverty.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pledged, among other things, to increase housing supply in the densely populated city and tackle poverty in his January policy address widely seen as an attempt to halt mass protests against his leadership.

Protesters held up a colourful array of banners, some of which portrayed Leung as a vampire and Pinocchio.

"Leung Chun-ying does not have the heart or the ability to solve the problems for the Hong Kong people," Icarus Wong, vice-convener of one of the protest organisers, Civil Human Rights Front, told AFP.

People were showing their "disappointment and anger" because his speech offered no new ideas on solving the housing crisis and tackling poverty, Wong said.

Protestors also called for universal suffrage in the former British colony which returned to China in 1997.

Hong Kong maintains a semi-autonomous status but cannot choose its leader through the popular vote.

Beijing has said the chief executive could be directly elected in 2017 at the earliest, with the legislature following by 2020.

Leung, who was chosen by a 1,200-member election committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites, saw his approval rating plunge to a low of 31 percent, according to an opinion poll released in January by the University of Hong Kong.

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