Ja­pan de­fence pa­per shows worry over China

Lesotho Times - - International -

WASHINGTON — The Cuban flag was raised over Ha­vana’s em­bassy in Washington on Mon­day for the first time in 54 years as the United States and Cuba for­mally re­stored re­la­tions, open­ing a new chap­ter of en­gage­ment be­tween the for­mer Cold War foes.

Cuban For­eign Min­is­ter Bruno Ro­driguez presided over the re-in­au­gu­ra­tion of the em­bassy, a mile­stone in the diplo­matic thaw that be­gan with an an­nounce­ment by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Cuban Pres­i­dent Raul Cas­tro on De­cem­ber 17.

Un­der­scor­ing dif­fer­ences that re­main be­tween the United States and Com­mu­nist-ruled Cuba, Mr Ro­driguez seized the op­por­tu­nity to urge Obama to use ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers to do more to dis­man­tle the eco­nomic em­bargo, the main stum­bling block to full nor­mal­i­sa­tion of ties. For its part, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pressed Ha­vana for im­prove­ment on hu­man rights.

But even with con­tin­u­ing fric­tion, the re­open­ing of em­bassies in each other’s cap­i­tals pro­vided the most con­crete sym­bols yet of what has been achieved af­ter more than two years of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween gov­ern­ments that had long shunned each other.

In a fur­ther sign of a de­sire to move past a half-cen­tury of en­mity, Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry later hosted Mr Ro­driguez, the first Cuban for­eign min­is­ter to visit Washington since the Cuban Revo­lu­tion, for talks at the State Depart­ment.

While both men stressed the mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion, they also sought to tem­per op­ti­mism fu­elled by the day’s fes­tiv­i­ties.

“The his­toric events we are liv­ing to­day will only make sense with the re­moval of the eco­nomic, com­mer­cial and fi­nan­cial block­ade, which causes so much de­pri­va­tion and dam­age to our peo­ple, the re­turn of oc­cu­pied ter­ri­tory in Guan­tanamo, and re­spect for the sovereignty of Cuba,” Mr Ro­driguez said at the re­open­ing cer­e­mony.

Mr Obama has mod­estly eased some busi­ness and travel re­stric­tions but the broader 53-year-old em­bargo re­mains in place. Only Congress can lift it, some­thing ma­jor­ity Repub­li­cans are un­likely to do any­time soon de­spite the Demo­cratic pres­i­dent’s ap­peal for it to be re­scinded.

With Mr Ro­driguez at his side later on Mon­day, Mr Kerry hailed a “new be­gin­ning” in re­la­tions but said there was still much that di­vided the two gov­ern­ments and that the path to com­plete nor­mal­i­sa­tion may be “long and com­plex”.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told re­porters the ad­min­is­tra­tion was “hope­ful” that Cuba in com­ing years would start to show re­spect for ba­sic hu­man rights.

Pomp in US, less fanfare in

Ha­vana

Ear­lier, a three-man mil­i­tary hon­our guard marched onto the front lawn of the newly-re­stored em­bassy in Washington where the Cuban flag was hoisted while the Cuban na­tional an­them played.

There were com­pet­ing chants from the crowd out­side the gates. “Cuba si, em­bargo no!” shouted one group. Cuba si, Fidel no,” yelled a much smaller con­tin­gent of counter-de­mon­stra­tors.

Mr Ro­driguez then spoke in­side the stately build­ing, which was vis- ited by rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader Fidel Cas­tro just months af­ter he seized power in Cuba in 1959.

In Ha­vana, the US Em­bassy was also re­opened for busi­ness but with much less fanfare. The Stars and Stripes will not be hoisted there un­til a visit by Kerry on Aug. 14.

A crowd of about 100 Cubans, tourists and Cuban-amer­i­cans gath­ered in front, many clutch­ing small US flags. One Cuban held a ban­ner that read, “Welcome USA.”

In Washington, more than 500

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