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Vietnam seeks to curb Beijing’s South China Sea actions: report | News





Tough negotiations lie ahead over a new pact between China and Southeast Asian nations aimed at easing tensions in the South China Sea, as Vietnam pushes for provisions likely to prove unpalatable to Beijing, documents reviewed by Reuters news agency suggest.

Hanoi wants the pact to outlaw many of the actions China has carried out across the hotly disputed waterway in recent years, including artificial island building, blockades and offensive weaponry such as missile deployments, according to a negotiating draft of the ASEAN Code of Conduct (COC) seen by Reuters.

The draft also shows Hanoi is pushing for a ban on any new Air Defence Identification Zone – something Beijing unilaterally announced over the East China Sea in 2013. Chinese officials have not ruled out a similar move, in which all aircraft are supposed to identify themselves to Chinese authorities, over the South China Sea.

Hanoi is also demanding states clarify their maritime claims in the vital trade route according to international law – an apparent attempt to shatter the controversial “nine-dash line” by which China claims and patrols much of the South China Sea, the draft shows.

“Going forward, there will be some very testy exchanges between the Vietnamese and China in particular over the text of this agreement,” said Singapore-based Ian Storey, a veteran South China Sea expert, who has seen the draft.

“Vietnam is including those points or activities that they want forbidden by the Code of Conduct precisely because China has been carrying these out for the last 10 years.”

Le Thi Thu Hang, a spokesperson at the Vietnamese foreign ministry, said negotiations on the Code of Conduct had made some progress recently, with Vietnam actively participating and other countries showing “their constructive and cooperative spirit”.

“Vietnam wishes related countries to continue their efforts and make a positive contribution to the negotiation process in order to achieve a substantive and effective COC in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, contributing to the maintenance of peace, stability and security in the East Sea (South China Sea) in particular and in the region in general,” she said.

The foreign ministry of Singapore, the chair of the 10-nation  Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc for 2018, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

“We cannot comment right now but Thailand certainly supports discussion on the single negotiating draft,” said Busadee Santipitaks, a spokesperson for Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which takes over as ASEAN chair in the new year.

COUNTING THE COST: The scramble for the South China Sea (24:59)

China seeks ban on outsider drills

The draft also confirms earlier reports that China wants military drills with outside powers in the South China Sea to be blocked unless all signatories agree.

In addition, Beijing wants to exclude foreign oil firms by limiting joint development deals to China and South East Asia. Experts expect both elements to be strongly resisted by some ASEAN countries.

“That is unacceptable,” one Southeast Asian diplomat told Reuters, referring specifically to the suggested ban on military drills with countries outside the region.

In a statement sent to Reuters, China’s foreign ministry said negotiations on the code were confidential, and it could not comment on their content.

The next round of working level talks is expected to take place in Myanmar in the first quarter of next year, the Southeast Asian diplomat said.

In August, Chinese and ASEAN officials hailed the initial negotiating text as a milestone and a breakthrough when it was endorsed by the foreign ministers of ASEAN and China.

It will be negotiated over the coming year by senior ASEAN and Chinese officials and has not yet been released publicly.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last month called for the pact to be sealed by 2021, a timetable some envoys and analysts are sceptical can be reached.

“There’s a lot of tough work ahead – that figure seems to have just been plucked from the air,” one senior Asian diplomat said.

ASEAN summit: Korean tensions, S China Sea militarisation

Dead letter?

The code builds on an earlier declaration on the South China Sea signed between ASEAN and China in 2002.

That document did not prevent the vital international trade route emerging as a regional flashpoint amid China’s military rise and its extensive programme of island building on disputed reefs since 2014.

The United States and other regional powers including Japan and India are not part of the negotiations, but take a strong interest in the waterway that links Northeast Asia with the Middle East and Europe.

Several countries, including Japan, India, Britain and Australia, have joined the US in gradually increasing naval deployments through the South China Sea. They are often shadowed by Chinese naval ships.

Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnam’s military and diplomacy at Australia’s Defence Force Academy, said Hanoi was expected to prove a tough negotiator but would need support among other ASEAN members to hold a firm line against China.

The Philippines successfully challenged Beijing’s South China Sea claims in an international arbitration case in 2016, but has reversed policy under President Rodrigo Duterte, who has avoided confronting China as he seeks to secure billions of dollars of loans and investments for his infrastructure programme.

The 19-page draft remains vague in key areas including its precise geographic scope, whether it will be legally binding and how disputes will be resolved.

Bonnie Glaser, a regional security expert at the Centre for International and Strategic Studies in Washington, said she believed China’s more controversial proposals would prove unacceptable to several key ASEAN members, as well the US and its allies.

“People I have spoken to in the US government say that it is clearest evidence yet that China wants to push the US out of the region,” she said.


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When Ontario declared a COVID-19 health emergency last spring, the first instinct of Ottawa entrepreneur Peter O’Blenis was to preserve cash.

“We basically stopped our discretionary spending,” said O’Blenis, the co-founder and CEO of Evidence Partners, which makes software for accelerating the review of scientific and medical literature, using artificial intelligence. “We cut investments in things meant to help us grow.”

It was a defensive posture born of experience. O’Blenis had 12 years earlier nearly been crushed by the global financial crisis. Another looked to be on the way.

In 2008, O’Blenis and his colleagues, Jonathan Barker and Ian Stefanison, hit a brick wall with their first venture, TrialStat, which helped hospitals manage patients’ electronic data. While TrialStat had secured $5.5 million in venture financing just a couple of years earlier, the founders had burned through most of it during a rapid expansion. When the financial world collapsed, so did their firm.

The trio played things far more conservatively with Evidence Partners, which has relied almost exclusively on customer revenues to finance expansion.

The caution proved unnecessary. Like so many other businesses, O’Blenis underestimated the government’s willingness to keep the economy afloat with easy money. Nor did he anticipate that COVID-19 would prove a significant catalyst for the firm’s revenues so soon.

Evidence Partners is hardly the only local firm with technology particularly suited for the war against COVID-19. Spartan Bioscience and DNA Genotek adapted existing products to create technology for identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Ottawa-based units of Abbott Laboratories and Siemens Healthineers make portable blood analyzers that diagnose patients afflicted by the virus.

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Shepherds of Good Hope wants to expand ByWard Market operation with eight-storey housing complex





The Shepherds of Good Hope plans to build an eight-storey building near its current shelter for the homeless in the ByWard Market that would include supportive housing for up to 48 people, a soup kitchen and a drop-in centre.

The organization says it wants to be part of the solution to the housing crisis that has fuelled a rise in homelessness in Ottawa.

People would be moved out of the emergency shelters and into their own tiny apartments in the complex, which would include a communal dining hall and staff available to help with mental health, addiction and medical problems, said Caroline Cox, senior manager of communications for the Shepherds.

Some residents in the neighbourhood are opposed, saying services for the homeless and vulnerable should not be concentrated in one area of the city.

“I was flabbergasted,” said homeowner Brian Nolan, who lives one block from the development proposed for 216 Murray St., where currently a one-story building houses offices for the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Nolan said that, in the 15 years he’s lived in the area, it has become increasingly unsafe, with home and car thefts, drug dealing, loitering, aggressive and erratic behaviour, urinating, defecating and vomiting on sidewalks and yards and sexual acts conducted in public on his dead-end street. Before he lets his son play basketball in the yard, he checks the ground for needles and his home security camera to see who is nearby.

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Carleton University Hosts the Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City





evehe Carleton University Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City given by Leslie Kern launches Ottawa Architecture Week. Urban geographer, author and academic, Kern will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequalities in the design, use and inclusivity of urban spaces. The talk will share some of the core principles behind a feminist urban vision to inform a wider vision of justice, equity and sustainability.

: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.

About the Speaker

Kern holds a PhD in Women’s Studies from York University. She is currently an associate professor of Geography and Environment and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison University.

Kern is the author of two books on gender and cities, including Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World (Verso). The book discusses how our cities have failed in terms of fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, the joy and perils of being alone, and also imagines what they could become.

Kern argues, “The pandemic has shown us that society can be radically reorganized if necessary. Let’s carry that lesson into creating the non-sexist city.”

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