China calls for North Korea, US restraint

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for all sides to exercise restraint in a call with US President Donald Trump, as a nervous South Korea and Japan sought to join drills with a US aircraft carrier strike group headed for Korean waters.


Reclusive North Korea said at the weekend it was ready to sink the US aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, which Trump had ordered to waters off the Korean peninsula as a warning to the nuclear-armed North.

Japan said on Sunday it had sent two Japanese destroyers to join the carrier group for drills, and South Korea said it was also in talks about holding joint naval exercises.

China is increasingly worried the situation may spin out of control, leading to war and a chaotic collapse of its isolated and poverty-struck neighbour.

Xi told Trump that China resolutely opposes any actions that run counter to UN Security Council resolutions, a Chinese foreign ministry statement said.

China “hopes that all relevant sides exercise restraint, and avoid doing anything to worsen the tense situation on the peninsula”, the statement paraphrased Xi as saying.

The nuclear issue can only be resolved quickly with all relevant countries pulling in the same direction, and China is willing to work with all parties, including the US, to ensure peace, Xi said.

Tensions have risen sharply in recent months, with Washington and its allies fearing Pyongyang could conduct another nuclear missile test or launch more ballistic missiles in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

North Korea celebrates the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People’s Army on Tuesday, and has marked similar events in the past with nuclear tests or missile launches.

Earlier, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described his conversation with Trump as a “thorough exchange of views”.

“We agreed to strongly demand that North Korea, which is repeating its provocation, show restraint,” Abe told reporters.

“We will maintain close contact with the United States, keep a high level of vigilance and respond firmly.”

Abe also said he and Trump agreed that China, North Korea’s sole major ally, should play a large role in dealing with Pyongyang.

The US government has not specified where the carrier strike group is, but US Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive “within days”.

South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun gave no further details about the South’s plans, other than saying Seoul was holding discussions with the US Navy.

“I can say the South Korean and US militaries are fully ready for North Korea’s nuclear test,” Moon said.

Canberra recommits to China extradition

The federal government has sought to reassure China it remains committed to a controversial extradition treaty during high-level security talks.


The government was forced to pull debate on the treaty from parliament in March because of its likely defeat amid internal and Labor opposition.

But senior ministers, including Attorney-General George Brandis, recommitted to the treaty during talks with China’s domestic security chief Meng Jianzhu in Sydney on Friday.

“It does remain the policy of the Australian government to move towards the ratification of the extradition treaty with China. We’ve told the Chinese that, they understand it,” Senator Brandis told Sky News on Monday.

“This is terribly important, particularly for dealing with transnational crime and with counter-terrorism.”

Senator Brandis hopes to persuade Labor there are appropriate protections in the extradition treaty, which was first signed by the Howard government in 2007.

“There is absolute ministerial discretion on the part of the Australian minister to ensure that nobody is extradited if there were to be, for example, human rights issues of concern,” he said.

Meanwhile, Australia and China agreed not to launch or support cyber attacks aimed at stealing intellectual property from each other after high-level security talks.

“Australia and China agreed that neither country would conduct or support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets or confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage,” Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop said in a joint statement on Monday.

The deal is similar to an arrangement between China and the United States, and follows the prime minister raising cyber intellectual property theft with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Australia in March.

The countries also vowed to work together in a fight against cyber crimes including child pornography and email scams, terrorism and transnational crimes such as money laundering, fraud and corruption.

Tatts predator to allow dividends

Pacific Consortium will allow Tatts Group to continue to pay dividends if the consortium’s proposed acquisition of the lotteries and wagering firm can’t be completed the end of the 2017.


The private equity group last week revised its takeover bid, offering $4.21 in cash for each Tatts share in the hope of boosting its chance of success against a proposal that would merge Tatts and wagering giant Tabcorp.

The Tatts board supports the merger proposal.

Under the consortium’s revised proposal, the consideration of $4.21 may include a special dividend of up to 25 cents per Tatts share.

Pacific’s proposal had assumed that, with the exception of any special dividend, Tatts would not pay any further dividends or capital returns prior to completion.

On Monday, the consortium said that should the transaction timetable extend beyond December 31, 2017, the consortium is willing to allow Tatts to continue to pay dividends to ensure the company’s shareholders are treated equitably.

“In this event, the future dividends would be received in addition to the $4.21 consideration received by Tatts shareholders,” the consortium said in a statement.

Pacific Consortium chair Dr Kerry Schott said confirmation that Tatts shareholders could continue to receive dividends showed that its revised proposal was superior to the Tabcorp proposition.

“In the interests of Tatts shareholders, the consortium believes the independent chairman and directors of Tatts should consider our proposal seriously and to allow access to due diligence,” Dr Schott said.

“We see no reason to not allow the prompt commencement of due diligence by the consortium.”

Tatts on Monday said, in a statement, it had not yet formed a view on how the consortium’s revised proposal compared to the Tabcorp merger proposal.

The Pacific Consortium comprises Macquarie Capital, Morgan Stanley Infrastructure, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and First State Super.

Tatts shares closed three cents higher, or 0.68 per cent, at $4.45.

Spotless rejects Downer EDI takeover bid

The board of cleaning and catering company Spotless has rejected mining services group Downer EDI’s $1.


26 billion takeover bid, describing it as hostile and highly conditional.

A statement from Spotless on Monday said the $1.15 per share offer was opportunistic, timed to take advantage of Spotless’s historically low share price, and did not represent adequate value for shareholders.

It described the bid as “hostile, highly conditional and not certain to proceed”.

“The Spotless board is unwavering in its belief in the fundamental strengths of the business,” Spotless chairman Garry Hounsell said.

“These include a blue-chip customer base and a strong portfolio of long-term government, health, defence and PPP (public private partnership) contracts.”

He said the company’s turnaround strategy was already delivering results.

The board recommends shareholders reject the offer

Spotless said it had also engaged in detailed discussions with a global facilities services company for a potential merger that had greater value than the Downer offer.

But talks ended on April 22 when an agreement could not be reached.

Spotless shares hit an all-time low of 79.5 cents in February after the troubled company signalled a reduction in dividends following a $358 million half-year loss that included heavy writedowns.

Downer launched a takeover bid in March and planned to fund the acquisition through a $1.01 billion rights share issue and debt.

Shares in Spotless closed down 0.45 per cent at $1.105, while shares in Downer were steady at $5.63.

Lethal injections scheduled in Arkansas bid to rush through executions

What began as a macabre plan to put eight convicted murderers to death in 11 days – a record, had it been carried out – has now seen one prisoner executed and four win reprieves.


The US Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to deny staying the executions of all eight condemned inmates.

But with the clock still ticking, Arkansas authorities are preparing to administer lethal injections Monday to Marcel Williams and Jack Jones. Four days earlier, on Thursday, Ledell Lee was put to death in the state’s first execution in more than a decade.

One more execution is scheduled for later in the week: Kenneth Williams, whose lawyers say he is intellectually disabled, on Thursday.

Arkansas’s Republican governor Asa Hutchinson has said the accelerated execution timetable is necessary as the state’s stock of a controversial sedative will expire at the end of the month.

Death-row inmates Jack Jones, left, and Marcel Williams. The two Arkansas inmates scheduled to be put to death Monday, April 24, 2017.Arkansas Department of Correction

The state attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, has pledged to overcome the stays and haul the convicts back into the death chamber.

Many of the legal clashes over Arkansas’s plan focus on use of the drug midazolam, a sedative meant to render a condemned person unconscious before other drugs induce death.

Critics say it does not always adequately sedate prisoners, potentially causing undue suffering.

And McKesson Medical-Surgical, a distributor for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, had asked courts to ban the use of a paralytic it sells, vecuronium bromide, in the chemical cocktail used to kill prisoners.