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China slams US over “provocative” use of B-52 bombers in the South China Sea

Gorkha Post

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BEIJING — Two US B-52 bombers have flown near islands in the flashpoint South China Sea this month in a “serious military provocation”, Beijing said, as tensions simmer in the disputed waterway.

China insists it has sovereignty over virtually all of the resource-rich sea, conflicting with the various claims of several neighboring nations, and US activity in the area has provoked Beijing’s ire several times in recent months.

“In the morning of 10 December, two US B-52 bombers entered air space over the Chinese Nansha islands [Spratly Islands] and nearby areas without authorisation,” Beijing’s defence ministry said.

“This behaviour is a serious military provocation which complicates the general situation in the South China Sea, [contributing] to the militarisation of the region.”

During the mission by the two B-52 bombers, one of the aircraft unintentionally flew within two nautical miles of an artificially constructed island, the Wall Street Journal quoted Pentagon officials as saying.

This may have been because of bad weather conditions, according to officials quoted in the newspaper.

Washington said it routinely conducts training missions in the region, including the South China Sea, adding that it was investigating the reports of the bomber near the Spratly chain.

“The Chinese have raised concerns with us about the flight path of a recent training mission. We are looking into the matter,” Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said.

“I will also say that for this mission there was no intention of flying within 12 nautical miles of any feature. This was not a Freedom of Navigation Operation.”

The United States has previously argued for its right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and is critical of China building artificial islands there.

It has flown other B-52 bombers and sailed a guided missile destroyer near some of the constructions in recent months.

In October, Washington infuriated Beijing when the USS Lassen guided missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of at least one land formation claimed by China in the disputed Spratlys.

“The United States has continuously sent military ships and planes to make a show of force and create tensions in the waters and airspace [of the South China Sea],” Beijing’s defence ministry said.

“The Chinese army will take all necessary measures to defend the sovereignty and the security of the country.”

China’s military conducted war games in the area this week, with warships, submarines and fighter jets deployed over a “range of several thousand kilometers”, the People’s Liberation Army Daily said.

Beijing’s claims in the sea conflict with those of its regional neighbors Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei.

AFP

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Economy

Govt decides to award Budhi Gandaki Hydel project to Chinese firm again

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KATHMANDU — The government has decided to award contract for the construction of the 1,200-megawatt Budhigandaki hydropower project, a national pride project, to China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) once again.

A Cabinet meeting on Friday has decided to award the contract for the project to CGGCL reverting the erstwhile Sher Bahadur Deuba government’s decision to develop the 1200MW project with internal resources.

The Cabinet meeting has directed the Energy Ministry to initiate the process to award the project to the Chinese company.

Following the government decision, the Energy Ministry will now invite the Chinese company for talks and prepare a draft of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) before signing it, according to multiple sources at the ministry.

As per the Cabinet decision, the ministry has been asked to hold talks with the Gezhouba, prepare a proposal, and strike a deal to execute the $2.5 billion reservoir project.

Earlier on May 15, 2017, the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government had awarded the contract to construct the Budhigandaki project to CGGCL, juat nine days before he was to resign from the PM’s post.

The Dahal-led government had awarded the contract to CGGCL at a cost of Rs 260 billion as per a study carried out by a French company, Tractebel Engineering.

The agreement, however, invited controversy as the project was handed to the Chinese company without initiating a competitive bidding process.

The Budhi Gandaki hydel project has been touted as a key project to resolve the perennial power crisis in the country. The government has allocated Rs18 billion for compensation payments and operational expenses for this fiscal year.

The Gorkha and Dhading district administration offices are currently distributing compensation to owners of the land taken over by the project.

More than 8,000 households will be affected by the project, according to the latest report.

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