Oil prices gain with record China crude imports

By Ovunc Kutlu<br>

ANKARA (AA) – Oil prices were up at trading start on Wednesday as China's crude oil imports reached an all-time high on a monthly level showing strong demand from the world's largest crude oil importer.

International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $70.39 per barrel at 0700 GMT, posting a 0.78% increase, after closing Tuesday at $69.84 a barrel.

American benchmark West Texas Intermediate was at $62.05 a barrel at the same time for a 0.81% gain after ending the previous session at $61.55 per barrel.

China’s crude oil imports reached a record monthly high of 10.64 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, the Chinese General Administration of Customs data showed earlier.

While this amount showed a 1.38 million barrel per day (mbpd) increase from the 9.26 million bpd in March, it also marked an 11% jump from the same month of 2018.

Rising demand from the world's largest crude oil importer signaled that global oil demand could be strong this year to put upward pressure on oil prices.

Meanwhile, U.S.' sanctions on Iran and Venezuela led to major production cuts in these countries, kept global oil supply low, and prevented a fall in oil prices.

Due to the sanctions, Iran's oil production is estimated to drop to 2.65 mbpd in 2019, from 3.85 mbpd in 2018, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its Oil 2019 Report released on March 11.

Venezuela's oil production is also forecast to decrease to 750,000 bpd this year, from 1.31 mbpd last year, according to the report.

Report: China destroyed dozens of Muslim sites

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – More than two dozen religious sites including mosques in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province have been partly or completely demolished since 2016, a British daily claimed Tuesday.

An article by The Guardian said a joint investigation by the newspaper and the Bellingcat website found new evidence of large-scale mosque razing in the autonomous region where Muslim minorities have long-faced religious repression.

It said the investigation analyzed 91 sites including mosques and shrines via satellite images and 31 of them “suffered significant structural damage between 2016 and 2018 ” ;.

“Of those, 15 mosques and both shrines appear to have been completely or almost completely razed,” according to the report.

“The rest of the damaged mosques had gatehouses, domes, and minarets removed.”

Nine other locations identified by former residents as mosques also appeared to have been destroyed, it added.

The mass bulldozing drive is part of a state campaign against Uighurs, a Turkic speaking Muslim minority in China.

The destruction of shrines, which were sites of mass pilgrimage, ” ;represent a new form of assault on their culture ” ;.

<p>China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang quoted in the article said in a briefing last month that there was “no such situation&quot;.</p> <p>“There are more than 20 million Muslims and more than 35,000 mosques in China. The vast majority of believers can freely engage in religious activities according to the law,” Lu said.</p> <p>However, the article says that China passed a five-year plan last January to make Islam compatible with socialism.</p> <p>The Guardian also published satellite images from various religious sites, in which buildings that existed in 2016 are clearly seen as demolished in last two years.

China’s Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

China stepped up its restrictions on the region in the past two years, banning men from growing beards and women from wearing veils and introducing what many experts see as the world’s most extensive electronic surveillance program, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Up to 1 million people, or about 7 percent of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to U.S. officials and UN experts.

In its last report released on last September, Human Rights Watch blamed the Chinese government for a “systematic campaign of human rights violations” against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

According to a 117-page report, the Chinese government conducted “mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment” of Uighur Turks in the region.

China slams Pentagon report on military prowess

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA – China on Monday slammed the latest Pentagon report which claimed Beijing’s military modernization has the “potential to erode core U.S. advantages in technology and operations”.

Addressing a news conference in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that the Pentagon report has “made many untrue remarks on Chinese policy and also deliberately distorted China's strategic intention and spread the China threat theory,” Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

The Pentagon had also claimed that the Chinese army was mulling construction of an army base in Pakistan.

“We firmly oppose that. Facts have proven that China is committed to peaceful development and following a national defense policy that its defensive in nature,” Geng said.

Urging U.S. to abandon what he called “zero sum game and cold war mentality”, Geng said: “We believe our two militaries should strengthen cooperation and dialogue to avoid miscalculation leading to conflict.”

“The U.S. should look China's development in an objective manner and stop issuing such irresponsible reports year after year and do more to improve our military to military ties,” he added.

China also protested the sailing of two U.S. warships near islands it claims in the disputed South China Sea.

U.S. guided-missile destroyers 'Preble' and 'Chung Hoon' travelled within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands which Beijing calls Nansha, PTI said.

Geng said the Chinese navy identified the U.S. vessels and asked them to leave as per Chinese law.

Oil prices see small decrease at week beginning May 6

By Gulsen Cagatay

ANKARA (AA) – Oil prices opened with some losses on Monday due to U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement of tariffs increase on Chinese goods ahead of the U.S. scheduled talks with China this week.

At the start of the year, Trump threatened to increase the tariffs, but the U.S. postponed that decision after China and the U.S. agreed to sit down for trade talks.

However, on Sunday Trump announced that tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, which had an original tariff rate of 10%, would more than double to 25% on Friday.

International benchmark Brent crude traded at $69.74 per barrel, while American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) amounted to $60.45 at 06.56 GMT on Monday.

On Friday, oil prices opened with some gains to recover from a sudden dive on Thursday, caused by an unexpected increase in U.S. crude oil inventories and with crude production hitting an all-time high.

Brent crude plummeted 2.5% on Thursday to close at $70.34 per barrel, but recovered by 0.22% to trade at $70.50 a barrel at 0630 GMT on Friday. WTI was at $61.75 per barrel at the same time early Friday.

Meanwhile, the number of U.S. oil rigs increased to 807 for the week ending May 3, up by two over the previous week, according to data released by oilfield services company Baker Hughes on Friday. Despite this increase, oil prices rose on Friday on strong U.S. employment data.

UPDATE 2 – Trump, Putin discuss nuclear pacts: White House

ADDS WITH TRUMP COMMENTS IN GRAF 10</p> <p>By Michael Hernandez</p> <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin spoke for more than an hour Friday discussing a wide range of issues including nuclear arms control agreements, according to the White House.</p> <p>Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the conversation was &quot;very good&quot; and included discussions of trade, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report, North Korea and Venezuela.</p> <p>Regarding nuclear arms treaties, Sanders said the men addressed the possibility of &quot;extending the current nuclear agreement, as well as discussions about potentially starting a new one that could include China as well.&quot; </p> <p>Trump later tweeted that he and Putin had &quot;a long and very good conversation.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing,&quot; he said. &quot;Very productive talk!&quot; </p> <p>Trump unilaterally began the process of formally withdrawing Washington from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, suspending it in February on allegations that Russia is not in compliance, and concerns China is not bound by its constraints on arms development.</p> <p>The bilateral pact between the U.S. and Russia took effect in 1988, and was intended to mitigate the chances of nuclear war in Europe. </p> <p>Trump has reportedly ordered his staff to prepare new arms control treaties with Russia and China.</p> <p>It is not clear what those efforts will produce, if anything — either separate bilateral pacts with China and Russia or a trilateral grand agreement. Either option usually takes years to achieve. </p> <p>Addressing reporters while hosting Slovak Primer Minister Peter Pellegrini, Trump said Beijing has signaled its interest in a trilateral pact, suggesting the Chinese government may be more interested in the agreement than in a trade agreement currently under discussion.</p> <p>In explaining his decision to the American people to exit the INF Treaty, Trump hinted he might pursue the latter option.</p> <p>&quot;Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others,&quot; Trump said during his State of the Union address in February. &quot;Or perhaps we can’t — in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.&quot;

UPDATE – Trump, Putin discuss nuclear pacts: White House

ADDS TRUMP TWEET IN GRAFS 4-5; DETAIL, REVISION IN SECOND GRAF</p> <p>By Michael Hernandez</p> <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin spoke for more than an hour Friday discussing a wide range of issues including nuclear arms control agreements, according to the White House.</p> <p>Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the conversation was &quot;very good&quot; and included discussions of trade, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report, North Korea and Venezuela.</p> <p>Regarding nuclear arms treaties, Sanders said the men addressed the possibility of &quot;extending the current nuclear agreement, as well as discussions about potentially starting a new one that could include China as well.&quot; </p> <p>Trump later tweeted that he and Putin &quot;a long and very good conversation.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing,&quot; he said. &quot;Very productive talk!&quot; </p> <p>Trump unilaterally began the process of formally withdrawing Washington from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, suspending it in February on allegations that Russia is not in compliance, and concerns China is not bound by its constraints on arms development.</p> <p>The bilateral pact between the U.S. and Russia took effect in 1988, and was intended to mitigate the chances of nuclear war in Europe. </p> <p>Trump has reportedly ordered his staff to prepare new arms control treaties with Russia and China.</p> <p>It is not clear what those efforts will produce, if anything — either separate bilateral pacts with China and Russia or a trilateral grand agreement. Either option usually takes years to achieve. </p> <p>In explaining his decision to the American people to exit the INF Treaty, Trump hinted he might pursue the latter option.</p> <p>&quot;Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others,&quot; Trump said during his State of the Union address in February. &quot;Or perhaps we can’t — in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.&quot;

Trump, Putin discuss nuclear pacts: White House

By Michael Hernandez</p> <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin spoke for more than an hour Friday discussing a wide range of issues including nuclear arms control agreements, according to the White House.</p> <p>Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the conversation was &quot;very good&quot; and &quot;very positive&quot; and the talk included discussions of trade, North Korea and Venezuela.</p> <p>Regarding nuclear arms treaties, Sanders said the men addressed the possibility of &quot;extending the current nuclear agreement, as well as discussions about potentially starting a new one that could include China as well.&quot; </p> <p>Trump unilaterally began the process of formally withdrawing Washington from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, suspending it in February on allegations that Russia is not in compliance, and concerns China is not bound by its constraints on arms development.</p> <p>The bilateral pact between the U.S. and Russia took effect in 1988, and was intended to mitigate the chances of nuclear war in Europe. </p> <p>Trump has reportedly ordered his staff to prepare new arms control treaties with Russia and China.</p> <p>It is not clear what those efforts will produce, if anything — either separate bilateral pacts with China and Russia or a trilateral grand agreement. Either option usually takes years to achieve. </p> <p>In explaining this decision to the American people to exit the INF Treaty, Trump hinted he might pursue the latter option.</p> <p>&quot;Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others,&quot; Trump said during his State of the Union address in February. &quot;Or perhaps we can’t — in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.&quot;

China, S.Korea, Japan take stance against protectionism

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA – Top officials from China, South Korea and Japan on Thursday vowed to take a strong stance against the policy of protectionism.

Economic experts and central bank chiefs from the countries met in Nadi, Fiji and agreed to step up efforts for regional trade and investment activities, Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

” ;We will remain vigilant against the downside risks and reaffirm our commitment to resisting all forms of protectionism, upholding an open and rule-based multilateral trade and investment system,” a joint statement released after the trilateral meeting said.

The statement comes at a time when China and the U.S. are engaged in a “trade war”.

” ;We agreed to further enhance communication and coordination among China, Japan and Korea to contribute to strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth,” the economic policy makers of the three countries added.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference.

Pakistani PM meets Chinese president

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD (AA) – Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday called on Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

Delegation-level talks were held at the Great Hall of the People, a state building located in the heart of the Chinese capital.

Later, Khan also met Premier Li Keqiang.

Khan arrived in China on Friday for a four-day visit to attend the Belt and Road forum in which 38 countries were represented.

China has made a multi-billion-dollar investment in Pakistan as part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative which will connect Pakistan's southern port city Gawadar to China through a network of roads and railways.

Pakistan announces 'next phase' in mega-deal with China

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday announced ” ;the next phase ” ; of a multibillion-dollar economic cooperation project with China which he said will focus on eliminating poverty in his country.

” ;Together, Pakistan and China are entering the next phase of CPEC, with greater emphasis on socioeconomic uplift, poverty alleviation, agricultural cooperation, and industrial development, ” ; Khan said.

CPEC refers to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of China's ” ;Belt and Road ” ; initiative, also known as the One Belt One Road, an ambitious project to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks to increase trade and stimulate economic growth.

” ;Pakistan is proud to have partnered and pioneered with China in this transformational endeavor. We are expanding the frontiers of knowledge through deeper cooperation in the fields of education, innovation, and technology. Under CPEC, special economic zones will be set up [across Pakistan], ” ; he told the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.

The $64 billion mega-project signed in 2014 aims to connect China's strategically important northwestern Xinxiang province to Gawadar port through a network of roads, railways, and pipelines to transport cargo, oil, and gas.

The economic corridor will not only provide China cheaper access to Africa and the Middle East but will also earn Pakistan billions of dollars for providing transit facilities to the world’s second-largest economy.