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China accuses Rio staff of bribing steel-makers

in.reuters.com

China accuses Rio staff of bribing steel-makers

CANBERRA july 10- Chinese security officials accused four detained staff of Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Ltd of bribery on Friday as Australia sought to avert a diplomatic row centring on the massive iron ore trade.

The Shanghai office of China’s State Security Bureau accused the three local Rio staff and senior Australian executive Stern Hu of bribing Chinese steelmakers during tense iron ore price negotiations this year, said the China Securities Journal.

“This seriously damaged China’s economic security and interests,” said the paper, published by the state-run Xinhua news agency. “The activities of Stern Hu and the others violated Chinese law as well as international business morality.”

Chinese security authorities arrested the four on Sunday, alleging they were involved in stealing state secrets.

Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking China expert, and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith both said Canberra was treading warily after the shock detentions, which have cast a shadow on ties between the two countries.

“Such a serious matter is a matter which goes very much to the relationship between Australia and China, so we are treating this as a very, very sensitive and difficult issue,” Smith told reporters in Perth, adding Hu had been well treated.

The arrests come as iron ore talks between the two sides miss a June 30 deadline, and after Rio Tinto ditched a $19.5 billion tie-up with Chinese state metals firm Chinalco last month.

Chinalco, Rio’s major shareholder, said the arrests were unrelated to dealings between the two firms and expressed “mutual concern for the current situation with their staff”.

Rudd, facing criticism at home for not intervening with China’s President Hu Jintao on behalf of Hu and his employer, promised any representations needed to secure their release. Trade Minister Simon Crean left for China on Friday.

China’s ambassador to Australia Liang Hong was summoned to the foreign ministry late on Thursday to discuss what local newspapers said was a fast-escalating crisis in relations.

Smith said China appeared to have a “broader” definition of what amounted to industrial espionage than many other countries.

“It’s very hard for the Australian government to see the connection between what might be daily commercial and economic negotiations and national security issues,” he said.

But Smith said the latest row would not derail negotiations with China on a free trade pact, underway since 2005.

The Australian dollar , knocked sharply lower on Thursday amid China export ructions, steadied on Friday, although the market was closely following developments. Rio shares traded up to 1.9 percent higher after a Standard & Poors rating upgrade.

RUDD CRUNCH

China is Australia’s second-largest export customer behind Japan, buying A$36 billion ($28 billion) of mostly commodities in the 11 months ended May 2009. In 2008, more than half of China’s imports from Australia were of iron ore.

Australia, along with Chile, is the largest recipient of Chinese investment this year, worth $3.9 billion, with Chinese companies anxious to lock-in access to resource exports.

Australian papers were critical of Rudd, pointing to a serious deterioration in Canberra’s relationship with its second largest export market.

“What does the much touted Australia-China relationship add up to if Beijing treats Canberra with such conspicuous discourtesy and indifference?” wrote the Australian newspaper’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan.

Senator Steve Fielding, whose support Rudd’s centre-left government needs in the upper house to pass crucial climate and budget laws, said Rudd had no idea how to look after Australians when China was involved.

“Here we have a Prime Minister who speaks Mandarin, tells everyone he has a relationship with China, yet he hasn’t a clue what to do when it comes to the crunch,” Fielding said.

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Japan developing cyber weapon: report

TOKYO: Japan has been developing a virus that could track down the source of a cyber attack and neutralise its programme, the daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported Sunday.

The weapon is the culmination of a 179 million yen ($2.3 million) three-year project entrusted by the government to technology maker Fujitsu Ltd to develop a virus and equipment to monitor and analyse attacks, the daily said.

The United States and China are reported to have put so-called cyber weapons into practical use, Yomiuri said.
Japan will have to make legal amendments to use a cyber weapon as it could violate the country’s law against the manufacture of a computer virus, the daily said.
In November a computer system run by about 200 Japanese local governments was struck.
In October, Japan’s parliament came under cyber attack, apparently from the same emails linked to a China-based server that have already hit several lawmakers’ computers.

It was also reported that Japanese computers at embassies and consulates in nine countries were infected with viruses in the summer.

Currently, the virus is being tested in a “closed environment” to examine its applicable patterns. (AFP)

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Australia’s plan to ban Uluru climb sparks debate

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The sun rises above Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, located around 300 km (186 miles) west of Alice Springs in outback Australia November 12, 2005.

Australia’s plan to ban Uluru climb sparks debate

CANBERRA (Reuters) – An Australian government proposal to stop people from climbing the famed Uluru, in deference to the wishes of indigenous people, sparked debate on Wednesday with lawmakers opposing the plan.

A draft management plan for the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park called for a ban on people climbing the 348-meter (1,142 ft) rock, which is sacred to local Aborigine people and visited each year by 350,000 people, half of them from overseas.

The plan for Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, could be implemented within 18 months, but must be approved by national Environment Minister Peter Garrett after a two-month public consultation, a spokesman for Garrett said.

“Kevin Rudd must veto any plans by Peter Garrett to shut down Australia’s world-famous Uluru climb,” said conservative politician and environment spokesman Greg Hunt.

“Visitors from around Australia and the world would be stopped from completing the majestic and exhilarating journey,” Hunt said.

The world heritage-listed rock, famed for its shifting red-ochre colours, is a top tourist drawcard and is climbed by more than 100,000 people each year, despite its central desert location and against the wishes of indigenous people.

“You can’t go climb on top of the Vatican, you can’t go climb on top of the Buddhist temples and so on and so forth,” local elder Vince Forrester from Mutitjulu township told state radio.

Forrester said traditional owners of the rock, which is 9.4kms (5.8 mls) in circumference, have wanted the climb closed since the park was placed in indigenous hands in 1985. The monolith features strongly in indigenous creation myth.

“Obviously you have to respect our religious attachment to the land too, so we’re saying please do not climb Uluru. We’ve said it in all languages,” Forrester said.

But outback Northern Territory Tourism Minister Chris Burns said his government did not back the indigenous proposal.

Hunt said the national government should not contemplate the closure of the rock at a time when Australia’s tourism industry was under threat from the global financial crisis.

“Big Brother is coming to Uluru to slam the gate closed on an Australian tourism icon, the climb,” he said.

But people responding to the state ABC radio website were divided, with some saying it was a “denial of the rights,” and others calling for more respect of sacred areas.

“About time. We would be horrified if people were allowed to climb all over our churches or sacred sites,” wrote Lilly. (Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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