Indonesia’s death toll tops 800, with several coastal towns still to be heard from

Indonesia's death toll tops 800, with several coastal towns still to be heard from
Men carry a relative’s body to the compound of a police hospital in Palu. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP/Getty Images)


Rescuers dug through debris with their bare hands and anxious family members struggled to contact loved ones who remained unaccounted for Sunday as the official death toll from an earthquake and tsunami in eastern Indonesia soared to 832, with authorities warning that it would rise much higher.

A string of towns along the western coast of the island of Sulawesi remained cut off by washed-out roads and downed communication lines, leaving the extent of the damage and loss of life there unknown more than 48 hours after the magnitude 7.5 quake struck.

With much of the quake zone inaccessible, the relief effort has focused on Palu, a town of 380,000, where crumpled buildings and bridges were surrounded by dead bodies, some covered by blankets, others with their clothes ripped by the force of a tsunami that measured as high as 20 feet.

Indonesia’s national disaster agency said the death toll had more than doubled overnight, to 832 people, but nearly all of those were in Palu. Officials warned that the toll could reach into the thousands once relief workers reached major towns such as Donggala, with a population of around 300,000 that is normally a half-hour drive north of Palu.

“The death toll will increase but I cannot say [by] how much,” Sutopo Nugroho, the disaster agency spokesman, told The Times in Jakarta.

The disaster was already the deadliest in more than a decade in Indonesia, a vast archipelago nation of nearly 300 million people spread across 17,000 islands that straddle an earthquake-prone region known as the Pacific “Ring of Fire.”

An area of intense tectonic activity and many active volcanoes, it has seen several devastating earthquakes in recent years — the deadliest in 2004, when a magnitude 9.1 temblor unleashed a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, most of them in Indonesia.

The epicenter of Friday’s quake was the province of West Sulawesi, with a population of about 1.2 million people, many living in fishing towns along the coast that were hit by the tsunami.

With “catastrophic damage” in many areas, relief agencies were bracing for a large loss of life once teams could assess the effects in Donggala and other towns, said Tom Howells, program implementation director for Save the Children’s Jakarta office.

“Aid agencies and local authorities are struggling to reach several communities around Donggala…. We hold grave fears for many of the towns in this area,” Howells said.

Images on local TV and social media sites from Palu showed scenes of death and destruction: crumpled buildings and bridges surrounded by dead bodies, some covered by blankets, some with their clothes partly ripped off by the force of a tsunami that measured between five and 20 feet high.

Indonesian news media said dozens of people were trapped beneath toppled hotels and malls in Palu, an echo of scenes on the island of Lombok in August, when a series of earthquakes killed more than 460 people.

An Associated Press reporter in Palu said that rescue workers were focusing on an eight-story hotel where on Saturday voices were heard calling for help from under the rubble. Officials estimated about 50 people were inside the hotel, but the cries for help were no longer heard by Sunday afternoon, the news agency reported.

Aerial images showed a landmark mosque inundated with water, houses that had tumbled down muddy hillsides and a ship was swept ashore in Palu by the force of the waves.

Hundreds of people had been attending a festival on the beach in Palu when the quake struck. Many of them were still unaccounted for, and anguished Indonesians were struggling to make contact with family members over the phone.

Anisah Firdaus Bandu’s mother called her in tears from Palu the evening of the quake. She hasn’t heard from her since.

“My mother cried a lot, she tried to pick up my father at his office,” said Anisah, a civil servant in Jakarta, the capital.

“I really tried hard to reach them till now but I can’t.”

With roads into Palu blocked by landslides and the town’s airport damaged, getting teams of relief workers from elsewhere in Indonesia to the disaster zone was proving difficult, delaying timely assistance to survivors and the arrival of heavy equipment that could save the people trapped inside downed buildings.

Officials said they would deliver some assistance via Makassar, the biggest city on Sulawesi, an island roughly the size of Florida with a population of about 18 million. Makassar lies at the southern end of the island, a 12-hour drive from Palu.

Hundreds of bodies stuffed into yellow, black and blue body bags were piled in a hospital courtyard as relatives began the grim task of identifying loved ones.

To avoid the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid, disaster management officials said they would begin mass burials on Sunday, taking fingerprints and other information so that the dead could be identified at a later date.

Dozens of strong aftershocks have struck Palu, where many fearful residents were sleeping in the streets and reluctant to reenter their homes, said Rafiq Anshori, head of the Indonesian Red Cross’s disaster preparedness division. He spoke by phone from Palu, where some communications had been restored by Sunday evening.

“Many road[s], houses, other facilities are broken,” he said. “People are finding it difficult to get food, water, fuel.”

Potable water and temporary shelters were among the urgent needs in Palu, said Mario de Oliviera, emergency management director for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, which was sending teams to the affected areas.

“Many families are in urgent need of help. They have lost everything, and they are struggling,” De Oliveira said. “The most urgent needs at this time include baby and childrens’ foods, emergency tents and tarpaulins, blankets, clean and potable water, medicines, among other priorities.”

Imade Boby, a 35-year-old Jakarta resident, said Sunday afternoon that he hadn’t been able to reach his parents or other family members in Palu since the quake. By late evening, however, he managed to get through on the phone.

“Finally I found my family in Palu,” he said, “and thank God they are in good condition.”

12:25 p.m.: This article was updated with more details of the devastation and background on earthquakes and tsunamis in Indonesia.

10:45 a.m.: This article was updated with news from Imade Boby’s family.

7:15 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with staff reporting.

2:50 a.m.: This article was updated with mass burial and the president’s visit.

This article was first published at 12:15 a.m.

FBI contacts second woman who has accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct

Senators join call for FBI investigation into Kavanaugh accusations

Some lawmakers called for a brief FBI investigations on Sept. 28 into the allegations made against Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh ahead of his confirmation. 

September 29 at 10:33 PM

The FBI has begun contacting people as part of an additional background investigation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, including a second woman who alleges that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her.

The bureau has contacted Deborah Ramirez, a Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh’s who alleges that he shoved his genitals in her face at a party where she had been drinking and become disoriented, her attorney said Saturday.

“She has agreed to cooperate with their investigation,” Ramirez attorney John Clune said in a statement. “Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we will have no further comment at this time.”

President Trump ordered the new background investigation of his nominee on Friday under pressure from key members of his party.

Late Saturday, the president said the FBI probe would be exhaustive, but the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday afternoon said that the supplemental investigation would be limited to “current, credible allegations.” And a lawyer for one woman who has accused Kavanaugh of misconduct said his client had not been contacted.

In brief remarks to reporters before leaving for a rally in West Virginia, the president said the FBI is “all over talking to everybody. . . . They have free rein, they can do whatever they have to do, whatever it is that they do. They’ll be doing things we have never even thought of.”

‘They should be ashamed’: Orlando women react to Ford, Kavanaugh hearing

Women in Orlando shared their personal reflections on Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh’s testimonies. 

But Michael Avenatti, an attorney for Julie Swetnick, who alleged that Kavanaugh and another boy got teenage girls drunk at parties, where the girls were sexually assaulted, sometimes by groups of boys, said Saturday that Swetnick has not been contacted by the bureau.

Swetnick said in a sworn statement this past week that she knew Kavanaugh in high school and was raped by such a group at a party where Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were present. She has not accused Kavanaugh of raping her. Swetnik described Kavanaugh as a “mean drunk” in high school who was physically and verbally aggressive with girls.

“We have not heard anything from the FBI, and with each passing hour, I’m growing increasingly concerned that this is a sham of an investigation,” Avenatti said. He noted that Swetnick has had multiple security clearances and said that lying in a sworn declaration would be disastrous to her career.

“Why would Miss Ramirez be questioned but not my client?” he asked. “Donald Trump is not supposed to be determining who is credible. That’s the job of the FBI.”

Trump reiterated his defense of his nominee for the high court, calling him a “good man” and a “great judge.” The president also said the FBI investigation “will be a blessing in disguise. It will be a good thing.”

Kavanaugh has denied the accusations by Ramirez and Swetnick and has said emphatically that he never abused or assaulted anyone. He also has pointed to half a dozen other background checks the FBI conducted on him for other federal positions over the years, none of which surfaced evidence or allegations of sexual assault.

The FBI also is following up on allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, who testified to the Senate last week that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s when they were in high school in suburban Washington, D.C.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, had pressed for the FBI probe and a delay in voting on the nomination. Asked on Friday about “current, credible allegations” that should be investigated, Flake said, “We’ll leave that to the FBI.”

White House spokesman Raj Shah said on Saturday: “The scope and duration has been set by the Senate. The White House is letting the FBI agents do what they are trained to do.”

A Judiciary Committee spokesman on Saturday declined to elaborate beyond the panel’s initial statement.

Democrats were not included on a call that Republican staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee held with the White House discussing the FBI investigation, according to an official familiar with the discussion who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Trump, in his remarks to reporters, also said he wants to know who leaked a confidential letter by Ford that was sent to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and suggested it could have been the California lawmaker.

“I think frankly the FBI has a chance to reveal a lot of different things. I’d like to find out who leaked the papers,” Trump said, referring to the letter. “Was it Sen. Feinstein? Certainly her body language was not exactly very good when they asked her that question. I would like to find out as part of it who leaked the papers, which Democrat leaked the papers.”

Feinstein said at Thursday’s hearing that she did not leak the letter nor did anyone on her staff. Ryan Grim, the reporter for the Intercept who first reported on the existence of Ford’s letter, has also said neither Feinstein nor her aides were his sources.

During Thursday’s testimony, Ford recounted in detail how Kavanaugh and Judge allegedly attacked her in a bedroom during a small gathering at a house when she said the teen boys were both drunk. Ford said the alleged attack has caused her lasting trauma, and she was visibly anguished as she recalled the events Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Following Ford’s testimony, Kavanaugh vigorously denied the allegations before the committee and accused Democrats of launching a last-minute attempt to derail his nomination. He decried the confirmation process as a “circus.”

Each of the people Ford identified as being at the gathering — Judge, Leland Keyser and Patrick J. Smyth — has said they will cooperate with the FBI.

An attorney for Keyser, a friend of Ford’s, said that Keyser has no recollection of the party where Ford alleges Kavanaugh assaulted her.

“Notably, Ms. Keyser does not refute Dr. Ford’s account, and she has already told the press that she believes Dr. Ford’s account,” the attorney, Howard J. Walsh III, wrote in an email to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “However, the simple and unchangeable truth is that she is unable to corroborate it because she has no recollection of the incident in question.”

Judge, the high school friend of Kavanaugh’s who Ford says was in the room during the alleged assault, also has agreed to cooperate with the FBI. His account has been particularly sought after because, unlike Kavanaugh, Judge has not denied Ford’s allegations but has said he has no memory that such an assault occurred.

Ford told the Judiciary Committee that some weeks after the alleged assault she ran into Judge at a grocery store where he was working for the summer.

“I said hello to him. His face was white and very uncomfortable saying hello back,” she said. “He was just nervous and not really wanting to speak with me, and he looked a little bit ill.”

According to Ford, a boy named “PJ” was also at the gathering but not in the room where the alleged assault occurred.

Last week, Smyth, who attended Georgetown Prep high school with Kavanaugh, told the Judiciary Committee that he had no knowledge of the gathering or of any improper conduct by Kavanaugh. On Friday, Smyth said through his lawyer that he was “happy” to cooperate with the investigation.

On Friday, Republicans on the committee voted to proceed to a full Senate vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, but back-room negotiations led to a surprise twist in what has already been a wrenching confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee, among the most polarizing in recent memory.

Flake, a key swing vote to confirm Kavanaugh, said he would vote to proceed to a full Senate vote, but that the Senate vote should be preceded by a new, expanded FBI investigation of the allegations against Kavanaugh.

Recognizing that Flake and a handful of other senators’ votes appeared contingent upon the investigation, Republican leaders and the White House relented. Later that day, Trump ordered the investigation and that it be limited in scope and completed by Friday.

Lawmakers and Trump administration officials had few expectations that the FBI would settle Ford and Kavanaugh’s dueling accounts. A background investigation is, by its nature, more limited than a criminal probe, and FBI agents will not be able to obtain search warrants or issue subpoenas to compel testimony from potential witnesses. The FBI’s interviews, which will take a few days to conduct, won’t turn into a sprawling inquest of everyone Kavanaugh went to a party with in high school, said a person familiar with the investigation.

The FBI’s findings will not necessarily become public. When investigators have completed their work, anything they’ve discovered will be turned over to the White House as an update to Kavanaugh’s background check file. The White House would then likely share the material with the Senate committee.

At that point, all senators, as well as a very small group of aides, would have access to it.

The White House or the Senate would decide what, if anything, should be released publicly. The bureau’s work will probably consist mostly of reports of interviews with witnesses and accusers. The bureau will not come to a conclusion on whether the accusations are credible and will not make a recommendation on what should become of Kavanaugh’s nomination.

On Saturday, the Judiciary Committee said it referred for criminal investigation apparent false statements made to the panel’s investigators about Kavanaugh. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray that he was seeking a criminal review of the actions of one individual whom he did not identify.

Aaron Blake, Emma Brown and Alex Horton contributed to this report.

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Indonesia tsunami and earthquake kill 384, leave hundreds injured

indonesia earthquake tsunami palu orig mg_00000711

Now PlayingTsunami hits Indonesian…
Tsunami hits Indonesian beaches after quake 01:05

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN)Rescue workers are hunting for survivors after a powerful earthquake hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and triggered a tsunami, killing at least 384 people.

After the 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit Friday, water smashed into buildings and swept away homes in the coastal city of Palu, home to 350,000 people.
More than 540 people are being treated in several local hospitals amid the massive destruction in Palu and 29 people are missing.
The death toll could climb in the coming days, Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho warned.
Electricity and communications have been cut off, making it difficult to assess the damage in Palu and nearby fishing community of Donggala, Sutopo said.
“It is not just the people in the large urban areas. There are a lot of people also living in remote communities who are hard to reach” Jan Gelfand, head of the International Red Cross in Indonesia, told CNN.
With Palu airport closed, relief workers have to make their way to Palu by road. Sulawesi is one of the biggest islands in the world and the drive from the nearest airport is around 10-12 hours. “We already have people en route but you never know what damage there is to the road infrastructure.”
In Palu, authorities are still urging residents to not go inside their homes and sleep away from buildings – fields, roads or yards because of the danger from aftershocks.

Scores wounded, hospital calls for help

After a local hospital was damaged, medical staff opted to treat dozens of wounded residents just outside the building, Sutopo said.
Medical team help wounded residents outside a hospital in on Saturday.

Dr. Komang Adi Sujendra, Director of Undata Hospital in Palu was seeking help from the public following the quake.
“At the moment, in our hospital, electricity is out all over Palu, roads are cracked, the phone network doesn’t work,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “We are hoping for any help.”
“We need tents, medicine, canvas, nurses …”

Air traffic controller dies after trying to escape

An air traffic controller who stayed behind to make sure a passenger airplane took off was among the dozens of victims.
Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, died in the hospital after he jumped off the traffic control tower at the Palu airport when he thought the tower was collapsing.
His colleagues had evacuated the tower when they felt the earthquakes but he stayed behind to ensure that a Batik airplane safely took off, Air Nav Indonesia, the agency that oversees aircraft navigation, said in a statement.
“We felt a deep heartbreak, may God gives Anthonius the best place beside him, along with other victims of Donggala earthquake,” Air Nav spokesperson Yohanes Sirait said.

A massive quake

The horrific scene began Friday when the first in a series of tremors was felt at 3 p.m. (3 a.m. ET) 35 miles (56 km) north of Palu, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Three quakes of 4.9 and larger magnitudes were recorded up to three hours before the tremor near Palu, the USGS said.
The tremor triggered a tsunami that hit beaches in the cities of Palu and Donggala, officials said.
The tsunami was “about three meters high,” Nugroho said.
Map data ©2018 GBRMPA, Google

The shaking of the 7.5-magnitude tremor was “severe” and the likely damage following the quake was considered “moderate to heavy,” the USGS said.
A series of aftershock quakes were reported in the aftermath of the quake, including a 5.8 magnitude tremor just 12 minutes later.
An early tsunami warning had been issued by the Indonesian meteorological agency, but was later lifted after the agency ascertained that the water had receded.
A resident is seen beside the collapsed brick wall of her house at Tobadak village in Central Mamuju, western Sulawesi province, on September 28 after a strong earthquake hit the area.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo said the military was being called in to the disaster-struck region to help search-and-rescue teams get to victims and find bodies.
Writing on his official Twitter account Friday, Widodo said he was monitoring the situation and preparing for any post-earthquake eventualities.
“May our brothers and sisters remain calm and be safe,” he wrote.
The quakes come a month after a trio of earthquakes hit several islands in the South Pacific and Indonesia, including Lombok, which is still recovering from the effects of an August 5 earthquake that killed more than 430 people.

Tsunami of up to three metres hits Indonesia after earthquake


Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: Video circulated on social media shows a powerful tsunami slamming into Sulawesi. (ABC News)

A tsunami of up to three metres has hit a small city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, collapsing buildings and washing a vessel onto land, after a magnitude-7.5 quake struck offshore, but there has been no word on casualties, officials say.

Key points:

  • More than 600,000 people live in the Donggala and Palu
  • Palu is a tourist resort at the end of a narrow bay
  • BMKG had earlier issued a tsunami warning, but lifted it within the hour

Authorities received information that Palu had been hit amid a rapid series of aftershocks, Dwikorita Karnawati, who heads Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency, BMKG, said.

“The situation is chaotic, people are running on the streets and buildings collapsed. There is a ship washed ashore,” Ms Karnawati said.

Videos circulating on social media show a powerful wave hitting the provincial capital, Palu, with people screaming and running in fear.

Indonesian disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said houses were swept away by the tsunami and families had been reported missing.

He said communications with central Sulawesi were down, and the search and rescue effort was being hampered by darkness.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: A tsunami of up to three metres has hit the Indonesian island. (ABC News)

BMKG had earlier issued a tsunami warning, but lifted it within the hour.

“We advise people to remain in safe area, stay away from damaged buildings,” Mr Nugroho said in a televised interview.

The national search and rescue agency will deploy a large ship and helicopters to aid with the operation, agency chief Muhammad Syaugi said, adding he had not been able to contact his team in Palu.

Palu, hit by a magnitude-6.2 quake in 2005 which killed one person, is a tourist resort at the end of a narrow bay famous for its beaches and water sports.

In 2004, an earthquake off the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, killing 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Earlier on Friday, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said it was having difficulty reaching some authorities in Palu and the fishing town of Donggala, closest to the epicentre of the quake 80 kilometres away at a shallow 10 kilometres underground.

Palu airport was closed.

‘We expect more damage and more victims’

The area was hit by a lighter quake earlier in the day, which destroyed some houses, killing one person and injuring at least 10 in Donggala, authorities said.

Some people took to Twitter saying they could not contact loved ones. “My family in Palu is unreachable,” Twitter user @noyvionella said.

More than 600,000 people live in Donggala and Palu.

“It happened while we still have difficulties in collecting data from nine villages affected by the first quake,” Mr Nugroho said.

“The [second] quake was felt very strongly, we expect more damage and more victims.”

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes.

A series of earthquakes in July and August killed nearly 500 people on the holiday island of Lombok, hundreds of kilometres southwest of Sulawesi.


Topics: earthquakeindonesiaasia

First posted 

What China could do to counter US tariffs


Amid intensifying trade friction between Washington and Beijing, a new round of US tariffs took effect on Monday, raising the stakes for both sides. China seems to have several tools up its sleeve to counter US tariffs.

Symbolbild Handelskrieg USA und China mit Dollar- und Yuan-Geldschein (picture-alliance/chromorange/C. Ohde)

Escalating trade tensions between the world’s two most powerful economies have cast a dark shadow over the global economic climate. On Monday, the United States and China imposed fresh tariffs on each other’s goods, with the US levying import taxes on $200 billion (€169.64 billion) worth of Chinese goods and Beijing retaliating with tariffs on $60 billion worth of US products.

Donald Trump has already hinted at the possibility of slapping tariffs on all US imports from China.

Read more: WTO: Weary Trade Organization?

Trump’s latest tariffs come in addition to those he has imposed on over $100 billion of imports already, including on steel, aluminum, solar panels, washing machines, and the initial volley of $50 billion on products from China.

China has asserted that it won’t back down and will retaliate against Trump’s tariffs by matching them dollar for dollar with its own. But Chinese exports to the US are nearly four times the amount of US exports to China.

In 2017, goods and services traded between the two giants totaled an estimated $710.4 billion, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. While exports from the US to China were worth about $187.5 billion, imports to the US from China were as high as $522.9 billion and resulted in a massive trade deficit amounting to some $335.4 billion.

Watch video02:05

No sign of resolution in US-China trade war

Given the deficit, the Trump administration’s thinking seems to be that Beijing might not be able to engage in a tit-for-tat escalation on tariffs as it would eventually “run out” of products to target with tariffs long before the United States does.

But some observers believe that China has other options to impose pain on the US.

Regulatory harassment

Experts like Nicholas Lardy of the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, for instance, point out that Beijing could target American businesses operating in China and harass them with regulatory hurdles. This might take the form of delays issuing clearances for US products at Chinese ports, lengthy customs and safety inspections as well as visa rejections.

Read more: Opinion: Let’s just call it by its name — a winnable trade war

The Chinese government could also promote consumer boycotts of US goods as has happened with Japanese and South Korean products in previous geopolitical disputes.

Such a move could prove devastating to some American firms that have large exposure to the Chinese market. “Apple’s $40 billion market in China for iPhones, the largest in the world, could quickly collapse,” Lardy wrote in a research note in June. “Similarly, General Motors sells more cars in China than in the United States, sales that could easily be disrupted by the Chinese government.”

Another way China could hurt US interests is by withholding regulatory approvals that are critical for ensuring the commercial future of American firms.

US tech multinational Qualcomm offers a case in point. The company was recently forced to call off its $44 billion effort to buy NXP Semiconductors, a Dutch chip maker, after Chinese regulators withheld approval of the transaction.

Renminbi and US bonds

Beijing could also allow the renminbi, the Chinese currency, to depreciate further against the US dollar, making Chinese goods cheaper in the United States and partly offsetting the tariffs.

Read more: US growth revised up on investment and export spurt

The renminbi’s value against the US dollar has already declined by 8.5 percent since April, estimates Capital Economics. This depreciation “gives exporters leeway to lower dollar export prices to offset the tariffs’ impact (the new batch of tariffs will only be 10 percent initially),” Mark Williams, Chief China Economist at the London-based research consultancy, wrote in a report. “It should also help make exports more competitive globally.”

Watch video03:32

Trump’s trade war is a dangerous game

But currency depreciation is a double-edged sword. Experts say a weaker renminbi could make China’s imports more expensive, raise inflationary pressures and result in capital flight out of the country. Furthermore, any deliberate move to depreciate the renminbi is likely to draw an angry response from the Trump administration.

Analysts say China could also sell US assets, particularly Treasury bonds, in a bid to pressure Washington. Beijing holds over $1 trillion of US government bonds, but has been cutting back on its holdings over the past several years. China has slashed its Treasury holdings by 10.2 percent since late 2013.

But if China continues to reduce its holdings and abruptly sells US debt, it would not only hurt Washington but also Beijing as it would lead to a loss in value of an asset that China holds a lot of. If the US bonds sold by China are bought by other countries and private investors, then the impact of such a move by Beijing would be limited on Washington.

“Beijing wields considerable power as the United States’ biggest creditor and could decide to shed some of its US government bonds. Yet that’s an unlikely course of action given the risks to the Chinese currency and the entire financial system,” according to Max J. Zenglein, senior economist at the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS).

Watch video02:58

Europeans to profit from US-China tariff conflict?

Economic restructuring

Some argue that China’s best option for responding to a trade war is by focusing on reforming and reconfiguring its domestic economy.

“While the Chinese government may try to respond to American tariffs by depreciating its currency or using regulations to discriminate against US companies, those measures have little guarantee of success,” Michael Pettis, finance professor at Peking University and a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, wrote in Barron’s. “The better approach would be to focus on raising the incomes of ordinary Chinese so they can spend more.”

MERICS expert Zenglein thinks that the new tariffs put extra pressure on the Chinese economy. “The Chinese government is currently trying to tackle problems such as rising debt, industrial overcapacities and environmental degradation. Thus the new tariffs come at a time when the government can ill afford economic growth to slow too quickly.”


China strikes back by going after America’s energy companies


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Elon Musk sued over ‘pedo’ tweet

The United States has an abundance of natural gas that pollution-riddled China badly needs to wean itself off coal.

Eying China’s voracious demand, Cheniere Energy, ExxonMobil (XOM) and other American energy companies are racing to build more than two dozen expensive facilities to export liquefied natural gas, which is super-cooled natural gas that can be transported by ship.

China even marked President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing last fall by agreeing to invest as much as $43 billion into an LNG project in Alaska.

But this pairing of an able buyer and well-supplied seller no longer looks like a slam dunk. As part of the escalating trade warChina on Tuesday said it will impose a 10% tariff on $60 billion of US products — including LNG.

The trade tensions could make it more difficult for the next wave of LNG export facilities to get the financing needed to get off the ground.

“It’s obviously very concerning. The potential for some projects to get delayed is very real,” said Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a trade group that represents Exxon, Chevron (CVX) and other energy companies.

The shale boom created an excess of natural gas in the United States. In a bid to get rid of the glut, the United States began exporting LNG in 2016 when Houston-based Cheniere (LNG)opened the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana. Earlier this year, Dominion Energy (D) opened Cove Point in Maryland, the nation’s second export facility .

China is the big elephant in the room. China’s appetite for LNG is growing rapidly. And it’s on the verge of overtaking Japan as the biggest buyer of LNG in the world.

That’s one major reason why the United States is planning to quadruple its export capacity by building at least 25 new facilities. LNG is a centerpiece of Trump’s energy dominance agenda.

china lng tariffs chart

In the 12 months leading up until June 2018, China was the second-largest buyer of US LNG, according to energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. Shell, the US subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA), was the largest seller.

However, China has dialed back its US LNG purchases in recent months as trade tensions have ratcheted up, according to ClipperData. Beijing is instead turning more to LNG powerhouses Qatar, Australia and Russia.

“China has been able to find willing sellers closer to its own backyard,” said Matt Smith, ClipperData’s director of commodity research.

Tariffs less than feared

Now, the tariffs will likely price US LNG out of the Chinese market, according to S&P Global Platts.

“There are other suppliers around the world that would gladly supply China — and they don’t have a 10% tariff,” said Riedl.

Kyle Isakower, vice president for economic policy at the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement that the trade situation “works against US energy sector growth and counter to the administration’s stated goal of ‘energy dominance.'”

The good news is that China had threatened an even bigger tariff — 25% — on US LNG. Cheniere’s share price rallied 2% on Tuesday in response to the lower-than-feared rate.

In any case, analysts don’t believe that overall US LNG exports will be dramatically hurt in the short run. There are plenty of other buyers, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Latin America. And Washington has been pushing Europe to break its addiction to natural gas from Russia.

“If China buys less, someone else will buy more,” said Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst at Raymond James. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a Chinese buyer, a European buyer or a Latin American buyer. Revenue is revenue.”

lng tanker

Will projects get shelved?

The real fallout of the US-China trade war could be felt in that next wave of LNG projects that’s in the works.

Due to the enormous cost to build each facility, financing hinges on the ability to sign a long-term buyer to a contract. And the obvious buyer had been China. Until now, that is.

For instance, Cheniere announced plans in May to expand its Corpus Christi export terminal in Texas. The expansion was backstopped in part by a contract with PetroChina (PTR).

Cheniere did not respond to a request for comment on the impact of the tariffs from China.

In August, Cheniere CEO Jack Fusco told analysts that threatened tariffs from China may slow down talks with counterparts in China about future growth.

However, Fusco said that the tariffs won’t impact existing contracts. And he emphasized that the US-China energy relationship has been beneficial to both sides, including by creating thousands of direct and indirect American jobs.

“China is an important growth market for Cheniere,” Fusco said. “We expect to sell meaningful amounts of LNG into China over the long term.”

Personal Finance



Kim Jong Un hugs Moon Jae-in as inter-Korean summit starts

South Korean president arrives in North Korea

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South Korean president arrives in North Korea 01:57

Seoul, South Korea (CNN)North Korean leader Kim Jong Un greeted South Korean President Moon Jae-in on his arrival in Pyongyang Tuesday for their third summit this year, as the two countries look to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The two leaders smiled and hugged at the foot of Moon’s plane at Sunan International Airport, amid crowds of cheering North Koreans waving flowers and national flags, including those symbolizing a unified Korean Peninsula.
Moon and Kim and their wives then shook hands with various officials, before reviewing a North Korean ceremonial guard. The highly choreographed scene, set to military music, lasted around 15 minutes.
It was the first time Kim had greeted visitors at the airport since the young North Korean leader took power in 2011, according to South Korean officials.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, second from left, and his wife Kim Jung-sook, left, are greeted by Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju.

Later in the day, the two rode in an open-topped car through the streets of Pyongyang, waving to thousands of onlookers who had lined the streets.
The historic three-day-trip marks the first time since 2007 that a South Korean president has traveled North.The two leaders will discuss a host of likely issues, including economic cooperation, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and formally ending the Korean War.
“What I want to achieve is peace. Not a tentative change which could be volatile dependent on international situation, but irreversible, permanent and unwavering peace, regardless of what might happen on the global arena,” Moon said on Twitter ahead of his departure.

Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un hug as their wives shake hands.

Moon and Kim vowed to bring an end to the Korean War during their first summit meeting. Though fighting ended 65 years ago, the war has never been formally ended with a peace treaty.
While a formal peace regime officially ending the Korean War would need buy in from the US and China — the other participants in the conflict — experts agree that there is nothing to stop the two Koreas declaring an end to the war themselves, or signing a bilateral peace treaty.

US remains wary

Moon arrived in North Korea with an entourage that includes K-pop stars and nearly a dozen business leaders, including Jay Y. Lee, the head of Samsung.
Though Pyongyang will likely relish the opportunity to court South Korean investors, ongoing nuclear talks between North Korea and the United States are also expected to feature prominently on the agenda.
The third meeting comes as the diplomatic efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles appear to have hit an impasse. It’s been three months since US President Donald Trump met Kim in Singapore — the first-ever summit between the sitting leaders of their two countries — but there have been no visible steps made by North Korea to suggest it has stopped the development of its nuclear arsenal.

Trump and Kim Jong Un's ups and downs

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Trump and Kim Jong Un’s ups and downs 03:02
The United Nations’ head of political affairs, Rosemary di Carlo, said Monday there are signs North Korea is “still maintaining and developing its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.”
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, delivered a similar assessment last month when he said the Trump administration does not feel North Korea was living up to its end of the agreement reached between Trump and Kim in Singapore, a page-and-a-half document that critics assailed as too short on specifics.
The problem, analysts say, is that North Korea will likely never give up its nuclear weapons unless it has a peaceful and productive relationship with the United States.
Washington is likely only willing to fundamentally change its relationship with Pyongyang if Kim were to give up his nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles he needs to deliver them.
“I am willing to talk candidly with Chairman Kim Jong Un to find a balance between the US’ demands for denuclearization and North Korea’s request for dropping hostile policies and enforcing measures to secure their safety,” Moon said Monday.
“I believe that the denuclearization issue can be progressed at a rapid pace if the two leaders face each other again and talk.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, center left, waves as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right, applauds upon Moon's arrival at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang Tuesday.

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have preached patience in recent weeks, with Pompeo telling reporters Friday that the US will continue to use a strategy that involves negotiation while also enforcing the stringent sanctions levied on Pyongyang by the United States and the United Nations.
“The United States is as committed as ever to continuing to enforce those UN Security Council resolutions,” Pompeo said.
“We believe they are central to President Trump’s efforts to convince Chairman Kim that full, final denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is necessary.”

Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump shake hands during their summit in Singapore on June 12.

Rolling out the red carpet

If history is any precedent, North Korea will continue to pull out all the stops for Moon and his entourage.
The previous two South Korean Presidents who visited North Korea, President Roh Moo-hyun in 2007 and President Kim Dae-jung in 2000, were both given a hero’s welcome.
Kim, the first South Korean leader ever to travel North, won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, but his legacy was tainted after it was revealed that South Korea secretly funneled nearly $200 million dollars to the the North Koreans through the Hyundai corporation just days before the talks.

Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in, top; Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong Il, bottom left; and Kim Jong Il and Roh Moo-hyun, bottom right.

Like Kim and Roh before him, Moon was also greeted on arrival in Pyongyang by scores of cheering civilians, many in colorful traditional dress. Moon’s office said he will also stay at the same venue where Kim Jong Il, the late North Korean leader, hosted Kim Dae-jung and Roh, the Paekhwawon State Guesthouse.
Photos of the luxury property emerged in June after Kim Jong Un hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov there. The guesthouse was surrounded by well manicured grass and colorful flowers — “Paekhwawon” means “garden of a hundred flowers.”
But beyond the pomp and circumstances, it’s unclear if this summit will end in any sort of formal agreement. Moon’s office insists that its important for the two Korean leaders to continue meeting on a regular basis in order to work toward peace.
“We don’t mean to add another declaration or another agreement,” Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for Moon, said Tuesday. “We’re moving towards a new era.”
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