Southeast AsiaStay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.., 20 Apr 2014 14:22:02 +0000SRA Framework 2.0en-gbNo sympathy from North Korea over ferry disaster South Korea's devastating ferry disaster has elicited messages of sympathy, condolence and support from around the world, with one glaring, though not wholly unexpected, exception.

North Korea has barely commented on the tragedy that has dominated global headlines since the 6,825-tonne Sewol capsized and sank on Wednesday morning with 476 people on board -- most them schoolchildren.

Around 45 heads of state across the political and geographical spectrum have sent personal condolence messages, including US President Barack Obama, Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping.

Not a word, however, from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un who, the North's official KCNA news agency reported, had thoroughly "enjoyed" a performance by the popular, all-female Moranbong Band on Wednesday evening, around the time the full scale of the ferry disaster was emerging.

The only notable reference came on Saturday when KCNA ran a brief news despatch on the accident that had "claimed many casualties."

KCNA quoted South Korean media reports that highlighted anger among the victims' relatives over the pace and scope of the official response to the sinking.

The only commentary from KCNA came in the form of a dig at the government in Seoul to "bear deep in its mind" the sorrow and anger of the families.

North and South Korea technically remain in a state of war, as the hostilities of the 1950-53 Korean War were concluded with a ceasefire rather than a formal peace treaty.

Their heavily militarised border remains one of extreme Cold War sensitivity, but declarations of sympathy at times of national grief are not unprecedented.

When North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il -- Kim Jong-Un's father -- died in December 2011, the South Korean government offered its condolences to the North Korean people.

Pyongyang's response to the ferry tragedy, which looks set to become one of South Korea's worst peacetime disasters, has been met with online outrage.

"We don't expect any support from poor guys like you but you could at least offer some words of comforts," wrote one commentator on the popular South Korean Internet portal

"The whole world is expressing condolences for the victims, but what the North is so deplorable. Be human!" wrote another.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui)South East AsiaSun, 20 Apr 2014 08:01:31 +0000
South Korea state railway chief to visit North South Korea said Sunday it had approved a trip by the head of its state-run railway corporation to North Korea to attend an international conference.

Korea Railway (KORAIL) chief Choi Yeon-Hye will visit the North from Thursday to April 28, said Seoul's Unification Ministry which handles cross-border affairs.

She was invited by the Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways to attend its meeting for railway chiefs to be held in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, it added.

The rare visit to the North by a senior Seoul official follows a period of elevated military tension.

Through February and March, the North test-fired dozens of short-range missiles as well as two mid-range missiles, and the two rivals exchanged artillery fire into the sea across their disputed maritime border.

The tensions coincided with Seoul's annual military drills with Washington that ended on Saturday and are habitually slammed by Pyongyang as rehearsals for invasion.

The isolated North has tried to upgrade its tattered railway network via joint ventures with neighbours including Russia.

The two countries last September reopened a 54-kilometre (33-mile) track connecting the Russian border town of Khasan to the North Korean port of Rajin.

Russia envisages the link as part of a so-called "Iron Silk Road" eventually linking Europe and Asia all the way through both Koreas.

But the plan has made little progress on the peninsula due to ever-volatile relations between the two Koreas.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui)South East AsiaSun, 20 Apr 2014 07:15:34 +0000
Japan defence chief puzzled by Russian warplanes Japan's defence minister said Sunday there have been an "abnormal" number of flights by Russian military aircraft close to Japanese islands in recent days.

The country's air defence force scrambled fighter jets for seven days in a row through Saturday after spotting Russian military planes flying along the Japanese archipelago, according to the defence ministry.

On Friday six Russian TU-95 bombers were seen flying two by two, with one pair moving around the Okinawan islands and then going north along Japan's Pacific coast. The two other pairs flew over the Sea of Japan (East Sea). None of the flights intruded into Japanese airspace.

"They are continuing flights, which we deem as abnormal and were unseen even in the Cold War era," Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters after attending a ceremony in Okinawa to inaugurate an airborne early warning squadron.

The minister, according to footage on public broadcaster NHK, added that Russia's intentions were unclear and Japanese defence officials based in Russia have been trying to check them.

"We are closely monitoring the situation," Onodera said.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui)South East AsiaSun, 20 Apr 2014 06:48:28 +0000
Rajaratnam's brother loses bid to dismiss insider trading charges YORK: Rengan Rajaratnam, the younger brother of imprisoned hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, on Friday lost a bid to dismiss some of the insider trading charges leveled against him last year.

US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled that the indictment adequately alleged the essential elements of the crimes charged.

Buchwald agreed that two securities fraud counts were "internally inconsistent" with a conspiracy charge contained in the indictment.

But she withheld ruling on whether to dismiss them in order to allow the government to decide whether to proceed on those charges.

A lawyer for Rajaratnam did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment.

The case, set for a June 17 trial, is one of a wave of insider trading prosecutions pursued by Bharara's office, resulting in 80 convictions since October 2009.

Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the hedge fund Galleon Group, received an 11-year prison sentence in October 2011 after a jury convicted him on charges related to insider trading.

A grand jury subsequently indicted Rengan Rajaratnam, a former portfolio manager at Galleon, in March 2013 on one conspiracy count and six counts of securities fraud.

Prosecutors alleged that Rengan Rajaratnam, 43, had conspired with his brother to trade on non-public information related to technology companies and Clearwire Corp and Advanced Micro Devices Inc, netting $1.2 million in illegal profits.


Rajaratnam's lawyers had argued the indictment failed to charge that he knew two alleged tippers of non-public information received personal benefits in exchange for giving tips to Raj Rajaratnam.

The tippers, prosecutors said, were Rajiv Goel, an employee of Intel Corp, and Anil Kumar, a former McKinsey director.

Both admitted to providing tips to Rajaratnam and received probation in 2012 after pleading guilty and cooperating with the investigation.

In her ruling Friday, Buchwald said while the indictment did not explicitly state the tippers received benefits, it provided enough details to give Rajaratnam notice of the charges against him.

She added that the indictment's sufficiency was a separate issue from whether she would require prosecutors at trial to prove Rajaratnam knew of any benefits received by the tippers.

The issue is set to be considered Tuesday by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in an appeal by insider trading defendants Todd Newman, a former portfolio manager at the hedge fund Diamondback Capital Management, and Anthony Chiasson, co-founder of the hedge fund Level Global Investors.

Newman and Chiasson were convicted in 2012 and subsequently sentenced to 4-1/2 years and 6-1/2 years in prison, respectively.


With regard to the two "inconsistent" securities fraud counts against Rajaratnam, Buchwald raised issue with how prosecutors could allege in one part of the indictment that Raj Rajaratnam caused Galleon funds to buy Clearwire stock and then later say Rengan caused those stock purchases.

Buchwald said she would dismiss those two counts unless the prosecutors offer "a coherent, logical theory as to how defendant aided and abetted the alleged securities fraud."

She gave the government until May 1 to decide whether to move forward on those counts.

The cases are US v. Rajaratnam, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-cr-00211; and SEC v. Rajaratnam in the same court, No. 13-01894.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Muhammad Iqbal)South East AsiaSat, 19 Apr 2014 18:04:35 +0000
Iran says settlement on New York skyscraper 'illegal' Iran's Foreign Ministry dismissed as "illegal" plans by US prosecutors to sell an Iran-linked Manhattan skyscraper in the largest terror-related seizure to date, media reports said Saturday.

Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said in a statement late Friday the settlement lacked "legal credibility" and was influenced by "anti-Iran political propaganda," according to the reports in Iranian media.

The settlement was unveiled on Thursday and has been approved by a federal judge.

Its main target is a 36-storey building in the heart of New York City that is majority owned by the Alavi Foundation, a non-profit corporation promoting Islamic culture and the Persian language.

US prosecutors allege the foundation has transferred rental income and other funds to Iran's state-owned Bank Melli.

Iran denies links to the foundation.

"In spite of baseless claims by the prosecutor and the completely political and propaganda decision of the court, the Alavi Foundation is an independent charitable organisation in the United States. It has no links to Iran," Afkham said.

"Even though such judicial-cum-political rulings are not new... (with this case) the credibility of American courts is at stake," she added.

The statement did not say whether Iran was planning legal action against the settlement, but Afkham mentioned that Iranian citizens were allowed to file legal suits in the country against the US government.

The US government intends to distribute proceeds from the sale of the skyscraper to families affected by terror attacks it says are linked to Tehran, despite Iran's repeated denial of accountability.

Among the creditors are the families and estates of victims of the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 military personnel and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US service members.

A date has yet to be set for the sale of the properties, and one private plaintiff has not joined the settlement.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri)South East AsiaSat, 19 Apr 2014 08:03:46 +0000
South Korea ferry captain arrested, divers spot bodies Investigators on Saturday arrested the captain accused of abandoning the South Korean ferry that capsized three days ago with 476 people on board, as divers finally accessed the submerged vessel and spotted bodies inside.

Lee Joon-Seok and two of his crew were taken into police custody in the early hours of the morning, charged with negligence and failing to secure the safety of passengers in violation of maritime law.

The 69-year-old captain has been severely criticised for abandoning his ship as it sank Wednesday morning off the southwest coast while hundreds remained trapped on board, most of them children on a high school holiday trip.

Twenty-nine people have been confirmed dead in the disaster, but 273 are still missing.

As the arrests were being made, dive teams who had spent two days vainly battling powerful currents and near zero visibility, finally penetrated the passenger decks of the 6,825-tonne Sewol.

"Civilian divers spotted three bodies through a window," said Choi Sang-Hwan, deputy director of the national coastguard.

"They attempted to get in and retrieve them by cracking the window, but it was too difficult," he said in a briefing to relatives of the missing.

Many of the more than 500 divers working on the rescue teams are civilian volunteers.

Nets will be placed around the submerged ferry to prevent any bodies drifting away during the eventual recovery process, Choi said, while adding that the rescue teams had not given up hope of finding survivors trapped in air pockets.

Captain Lee was arraigned along with the two officers in charge of the bridge at the time.

Dressed in dark raincoats with their hoods pulled up, the three kept their heads bowed as they were paraded before TV cameras in a police station.

Questioned by TV reporters as to why passengers had been ordered not to move for more than 40 minutes after the ship first foundered, Lee said it was a safety measure.

- Captain explains evacuation delay -


"At the time a rescue ship had not arrived. There were also no fishing boats around for rescues, or other ships to help," Lee said.

"The currents were very strong and the water was cold at that time in the area.

"I thought that passengers would be swept far away and fall into trouble if they evacuated thoughtlessly," he added.

Experts have suggested many more people might have escaped if they had moved to reach evacuation points before the ship listed sharply and water started flooding in.

Lee also confirmed he was not the helm when the ship ran into trouble, and was returning to the bridge from his cabin.

The hundreds of relatives camped out in a gymnasium on Jindo island near the scene of the disaster -- most of the them parents of high school students -- have sharply criticised the pace of the rescue operation, accusing officials of incompetence and indifference.

Only 174 were rescued when the ferry sank and no new survivors have been found since Wednesday.

Nam Sung-Won, whose 17-year-old nephew was among the missing, said the clock was fast running down on the hope that some may have survived.

"We don't have much time. Many people here believe this is the last possible day for finding trapped passengers alive.

- 'No hope after today' -


"After today, hope will be gone," Nam said.

The unfolding tragedy was compounded by the apparent suicide Friday of the students' high school vice principal, Kang Min-Kyu, who was seemingly overcome by guilt at having survived the sinking.

Kang, 52, was found hanging from a tree near the Jindo gymnasium. Local media said he had left a note, saying: "Surviving alone is too painful... I take full responsibility."

More than 350 of those on board were students from Kang's Danwon High School in Ansan city just south of Seoul.

Initial questioning of the captain has focused on what actually caused the ferry to sink.

Tracking data from the Maritime Ministry showed the vessel made a sharp turn just before sending its first distress signal.

Some experts believe a tight turn could have dislodged the heavy cargo manifest -- including more than 150 vehicles -- and destabilised the vessel, causing it to list heavily and then capsize.

But others suggested the turn might have been caused by a collision with a rock or other submerged object.

Chief prosecutor Lee Seong-Yoon stressed there was "no limit" to the range of the investigation.

"We will make sure... those responsible are sternly held accountable," Lee said.

Three giant, floating cranes are now at the rescue site, but coastguard officials stressed they would not begin lifting the multi-deck ferry until they were sure there were no survivors inside.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri)South East AsiaSat, 19 Apr 2014 06:26:48 +0000
William and Kate hit the beach on Sydney visit Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate got to grips with Australia's beach and bush lifestyles on Friday, watching a life-saving display and a sheep-shearing demonstration as part of their tour Down Under with baby son George.

The young royals have received a warm welcome in Sydney, the first stop of their 10-day Australian tour, with thousands flocking to their official reception at the Sydney Opera House on Wednesday.

Thousands more craned for a glimpse of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the Royal Easter Show on Friday, where the glamorous couple viewed agricultural exhibits.

Kate, who was wearing a cream cotton lace dress by Australian brand Zimmerman, joked while inspecting an alpaca wool display that her husband's thinning hairline could do with some help from the fleece.

"She pointed at him and said 'You need it more than me.' He laughed," said Lyn Cregan, 67.

The pair are popular in Australia -- where William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth II is head of state -- and have been lavished with bouquets and gifts from the crowds, including many for eight-month-old George, who also travelled with them to New Zealand.

"They're such a lovely couple. They're so much in love," Margaret Bryant from the country town of Cowra told the Australian Associated Press, having arrived in Sydney at 3:00 am to see the royals.

In her first speech of the visit, at the children's hospice Bear Cottage, Kate expressed gratitude for the warm welcome she and George have received on their first visit to Australia.

"To be here together as a family has been very special and we will always remember it with fond and happy memories," she said.

The Duchess also praised Bear Cottage, describing its work as "inspirational".

It was then to Manly Beach where Sydney put on perfect autumn sunshine for a demonstration of surf life-saving.

Close to 100 "nippers" -- junior life-savers in training -- competed in beach races, swimming and board events, with Kate firing the gun for one of the races. The couple were presented with a six-foot surfboard for George.

But the royal couple didn't get any sand between their toes -- choosing to keep their shoes on, in Kate's case a pair of wedge heels.

The move made news in Australia, prompting the headline in Sydney's Daily Telegraph: "Royal couple hit the beach but shoes stay on".

Local resident Giovanni Testini was one of the many in the crowd with a gift for the royals -- in his case, a pair of miniature 'budgie smugglers', men's swimming briefs, for George.

"We've come down to give George a pair of budgie smugglers and we've got a pair for the Prince as well," Testini told the Telegraph.

"It's good for Australia, the whole family coming through. It's exciting."

The royals, who have just completed a 10-day tour of New Zealand, will travel to Queensland on Saturday as part of a trip that will also take them to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia's desert heartland.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri)South East AsiaFri, 18 Apr 2014 07:57:57 +0000
Third officer, not captain, at helm when South Korean ferry capsized: investigator The third officer was at the helm of a South Korean ferry when it capsized on Wednesday with 475 people on board, an investigating prosecutor told a news conference on Friday, and the captain may not even have been on the bridge at the time.

"He may have been off the bridge ... and the person at the helm at the time was the third officer," the investigator said.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri)South East AsiaFri, 18 Apr 2014 06:18:22 +0000
Six killed in Everest avalanche: mountaineering official At least six climbers have been killed after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday, the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association told AFP.

"Rescuers have already retrieved four bodies and they are now trying to pull out two more bodies that are buried under snow," Ang Tshering Sherpa said.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri)South East AsiaFri, 18 Apr 2014 05:04:41 +0000
Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking South Korea ferry

imageSEOUL: Heart-wrenching messages of fear, love and despair, sent by high school students from a sinking South Korean ferry added extra emotional weight Thursday to a tragedy that has stunned the entire nation.

Nearly 300 people -- most of them students on a high school trip to a holiday island -- are still missing after the ferry capsized and sank on Wednesday morning.

"Sending this in case I may not be able to say this again. Mom, I love you," one student Shin Young-Jin said in a text to his mother that was widely circulated in the South Korean media.

"Oh, I love you too son," texted back his mother who was unaware at the time that her son was caught in a life and death struggle to escape the rapidly sinking vessel.

Unlike many others, the exchange had a happy ending as Shin was one of only 179 survivors rescued before the ferry capsized and went under the water.

Others were not so fortunate. Another student, 16-year-old Kim Woong-Ki sent a desperate text for help to his elder brother as the ship listed violently over to one side. "My room is tilting about 45 degrees.

My mobile is not working very well," Kim messaged. Seeking to reassure him, his brother said he was sure help was on the way.

"So don't panic and just do whatever you're told to do. Then you'll be fine," he messaged back. There was no further communication and Kim was listed among the 287 people on board still unaccounted for.

Sadly his brother's advice was similar to that of the crew who controversially ordered passengers to stay put when the ship first foundered.

Angry relatives said this resulted in the passengers getting trapped when the ferry keeled over, cutting off routes of escape. That grim scenario was encapsulated in the texts of an 18-year-old student, identified in the local media by her surname Shin.

"Dad, don't worry. I'm wearing a life vest and am with other girls. We're inside the ship, still in the hallway," the girl messaged to her father. Her distraught father texted her to try and get out, but it was already too late. "Dad, I can't.

The ship is too tilted. The hallway is crowded with so many people," she responded in a final message. Some parents managed a last, traumatic phone call with their children as they tried to escape. "She told me the ship was tilted over and she couldn't see anything," one mother recalled of a panicked conversation with her student daughter.

"She said 'I haven't put on the life jacket yet', and then the phone went dead," the mother told the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri)South East AsiaThu, 17 Apr 2014 08:11:34 +0000