Daily Archives: May 11, 2018

SparkLabs Engages with Argon Group to Launch the First Startup Accelerator Security Token Offering

The Largest Accelerator Network in Asia Partners with Argon Group, a leading digital finance advisory firm, and Swarm.Fund, the first security token platform, to Democratize Venture Capital Access

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 11, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — SparkLabs Group, which has the largest accelerator network in Asia and operates global venture capital funds, has engaged with Argon Group, a leading digital finance advisory firm, to launch the first startup accelerator security token offering through their Smart City & Smart Planet Fund (sparklabs.tokenhub.com).

The SparkLabs token is not a utility token and is simply a smart contract that represents an investor’s (“Limited Partners”) equity into its fund vehicle that will have equal holdings in start-up companies that are associated with SparkLabs IoT & Smart City Accelerator in Songdo, South Korea and SparkLabs Cultiv8 Accelerator in Orange, Australia.

“SparkLabs has been very conservative in our approach and viewpoints on the cryptocurrency space and token offerings.  We have been concerned that many utility tokens are in fact securities and have viewed this space with some trepidation.  After meticulous diligence, we have now decided to jump into the pool a bit with a security token offering that we believe is conservative and provides a better understanding for venture capitalists on how this can affect our industry in the years to come,” stated Jimmy Kim, Co-founder of SparkLabs Group and former CFO of Nexon (South Korea’s largest onling gaming company).  Additionally, Mr. Kim’s most recent startup, N3N, was Cisco’s first IoT investment.

Graduates of SparkLabs accelerators have an average raise size of over $3.5 million with 80% of the startups receiving funding after the program.  SparkLabs’ startups also average over $500,000 in funds raised prior to entering the accelerator programs.

“We believe our Smart City & Smart Planet Fund allows people across the globe to invest into two accelerator funds that can truly change the world in terms of urban innovation, innovation in agriculture, and how we interact with our planet. Both accelerators have excellent partners, such as Australia’s Government of New South Wales which generously provided access to over 30,000 acres of farmland for our startups to utilize as a test bed,” explained Frank Meehan, Co-founder of SparkLabs Group.  Mr. Meehan was born and raised in Australia and is currently living in London. Prior to launching SparkLabs, he was best known for leading DeepMind’s Series A (acquired by Google) and sat on Siri’s board of directors until it was acquired by Apple.

“Argon Group is excited to be working with SparkLabs on this new and creative development for venture capital.  I believe that SparkLabs is an imaginative accelerator, and, in my view, it comes as no surprise to me that they are leading an effort combining both pioneering urban and environment planning and an innovative approach to capital raising,”  said Elliot Han, Managing Director at Argon Group.

About SparkLabs Group
SparkLabs Group (www.sparklabsgroup.com) is comprised of SparkLabs accelerator network, one of Asia’s premier startup accelerators; SparkLabs Global Ventures, a leading global seed stage fund; SparkLabs Ventures, a localized early-stage fund (Series A & B) in South Korea; SparkLabs Capital, a late stage investment vehicle.  SparkLabs accelerator network consists of SparkLabs Korea (Seoul), SparkLabs China (Beijing and launching Shanghai, Chengdu and Shenzen), SparkLabs IoT & Smart Cities (Songdo, South Korea), SparkLabs Taipei, SparkLabs Cultiv8 (Sydney) and Ping An FinTech Accelerator, Powered by SparkLabs (Shenzhen & Hong Kong).

About Argon Group
Argon Group is a leading boutique investment bank focused exclusively on the digital finance and token-based capital markets. Argon Group has developed an end-to-end offering, supporting the full process of raising capital in digital capital markets as well as aftermarket trading and support.  Key clients include Blockchain Capital, Civic, Storj, Science Blockchain, Protos, TheKey and others.

About Swarm Fund
Swarm Fund is a blockchain-based resource for private equity. It’s a fully decentralized capital market place that democratizes investing by using the power of the blockchain to open up alternative investment classes to investors through funds using cryptocurrency tokens. It makes traditionally exclusive investment opportunities, such as private equity and hedge funds, inclusive for the Swarm by pooling together smaller investments into larger, institutional-sized blocks, providing fund managers access to arguably untapped capital stack.

The Swarm blockchain allows real world investment opportunities to be “tokenized” using the SRC20 protocol, a cryptographic standard for security tokens.

Contact:
Bernard Moon, Co-founder, SparkLabs Group
+1-650-454-5244 or bernard@sparklabsglobal.com

CP Kelco Closes Sale of Carrageenan Production Site in Philippines to Marcel Trading Corporation

ATLANTA, May 11, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — CP Kelco, a leading global producer of specialty hydrocolloid ingredients, today announced it has completed the sale of its carrageenan plant in Sibonga, Cebu, Philippines, to Marcel Trading Corporation, a carrageenan producer in the Philippines.

In May 2017, CP Kelco made the decision to seek a strategic buyer for the Cebu plant, based on the company’s strategy and business objectives. Gel-pressed/refined carrageenan (GPC) and semi-refined carrageenan (SRC) products were the Cebu plant’s primary products.

“We are pleased to have found a new, strategic owner for the Cebu facility,” said Didier Viala, President of CP Kelco. “Under Marcel’s ownership, the plant will restart operations and provide employment opportunity for the local community.”

CP Kelco is not exiting the carrageenan business and continues to operate a carrageenan production facility in Lille Skensved, Denmark. Utilizing its deep applications expertise and technology, the company remains committed to providing the global market with high-quality alcohol precipitated (APC), SRC and GPC carrageenan products, now and in the future.

About CP Kelco
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, CP Kelco is a leading producer of specialty hydrocolloids with offices and facilities across the globe. Featuring an extensive range of hydrocolloid solutions and serving over 100 countries, CP Kelco leverages its capabilities to bring concepts and ideas to real-world products in a broad range of applications. The company’s specialty ingredients touch a wide variety of industrial applications, consumer and household products, tailored to meet the needs of regional consumers. Key product lines are Gellan Gum, Pectin, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan, Diutan Gum, Cellulose Gum/Carboxymethyl Cellulose, and Microparticulated Whey Protein Concentrate, as well as other unique biopolymers. Visit www.cpkelco.com for more information.

CONTACT:
Michele Cacdac-Jones
Office: +1 678 247 7149
Mobile: +1 770 743 0564
michele.cacdac-jones@cpkelco.com

Remarks With Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at a Press Availability

SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon. It is my honor to welcome Foreign Minister Kang to Washington. It is important to meet with such a critical ally so early in my time as Secretary at this incredibly critical time as well. Our alliance with the Republic of Korea was forged in the crucible of war 65 years ago. Tens of thousands of Koreans and Americans sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of freedom for South Korea.

In the years since, the citizens of South Korea took the hard-earned freedom and transformed their war-shattered country into an economic wonder. The Republic of Korea is now the 11th largest economy in the globe, the sixth largest trading partner of the United States, and a key force multiplier for U.S. leadership in the world. The U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance has been fortified by the trials of history and is unequivocally now stronger than ever. Over 28,500 men and women of the United States Forces Korea serve as the forward-deployed face of the ironclad U.S. commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea, its people, and indeed to the entire region.

The prospect of peace and security in the Korean Peninsula and across the Asia Pacific region is why we have stood shoulder to shoulder for more than six decades. Just yesterday, I returned from Pyongyang, where I had productive discussions with Chairman Kim Jong-un in preparation for President Trump’s summit with him. It was an honor as one of my first actions as Secretary of State to negotiate the safe return of three U.S. citizens and bring them home to freedom. We wish these Americans and their families the best as they reconnect after a very difficult time apart. On behalf of the American people, we say welcome home.

The release of these three citizens helps set the conditions for a successful meeting between President Trump and Chairman Kim. We look forward to our continued preparations with the DPRK to make the summit in Singapore on June 12th a true success for the American and Korean people and for the world. I congratulate South Korea and North Korea on their historic meeting last month. The United States is encouraged by President Moon and Chairman Kim’s stated goal of complete denuclearization in the Panmunjom declaration.

Today, Foreign Minister Kang and I discussed the summit, my trip to North Korea, and the bold step President Trump is about to take when he meets with Chairman Kim. We would not be where we are today without the close and coordinated leadership of Presidents Trump and Moon. The United States and the Republic of Korea remain committed to achieving the permanent, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. If Chairman Kim chooses the right path, there is a future brimming with peace and prosperity for the North Korea � North Korean people. America’s track record of support for the Korean people is second to none.

If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on the par with our South Korean friends. The United States looks forward to continued close cooperation with our South Korean allies on this issue and many others.

Foreign Minister, thank you for being with me today. It was a pleasure to work with you.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, for the very warm welcome. Let me reiterate my congratulations on your becoming the top diplomat of the United States at this historic moment. Secretary Pompeo, you have already been at the center of our joint efforts on North Korea, and I very much look forward to working closely with you.

We spoke on April 28th right after the momentous inter-Korean summit, and today we met just after Secretary Pompeo’s return from Pyongyang. During our meeting, I congratulated him and President Trump for the successful release of the three U.S. citizens, all Korean Americans, from North Korea. This is a promising signal for the upcoming summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim.

Over the past weeks, both Korea and the United States have been engaged in intensive diplomatic efforts regarding North Korea, and we briefed each other on the latest endeavors, including Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang and the Korea-Japan-China trilateral summit in Tokyo, which adopted a special statement welcoming the outcome of the South-North Korean summit and expressing the strong hopes for the success of the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit. In this context, Secretary Pompeo and I discussed preparations for the summit meeting between President Trump and Chairman Kim in Singapore on June 12th. We agreed that the summit would be a historic opportunity for resolving the North Korean nuclear issue and securing enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula. We reaffirmed that our goal is to achieve the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

In this regard, Secretary Pompeo and I agreed the next few weeks will be critical, requiring air-tight coordination between our two countries. As announced, President Moon will visit Washington, D.C. soon to meet with President Trump. The close communication and trust between Presidents Trump and Moon have been the driving force that has brought us to this point of breakthrough for the denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula. So their meeting on the 22nd will be instrumental in preparing for a successful U.S.-North Korea summit.

Secretary Pompeo and I reaffirmed that the ROK-U.S. alliance, which celebrates its 65th anniversary this year, has long served as the linchpin for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. We also reaffirmed that for the last 65 years, the USFK, the United States Forces in Korea, has played a crucial role for deterrence and peace and stability of the region, and we would like to emphasize again that the U.S. military presence in Korea is a matter for the ROK-U.S. alliance first and foremost.

After today’s meeting, I am even more confident that our alliance is as robust as ever and that there is no daylight in our cooperation on the denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Once again, I would like to thank Secretary Pompeo for today’s fruitful discussions and look forward to building a close working partnership relationship with him. And in addition to the upcoming summit meeting in Washington, D.C. on May 22nd, I hope to see him again in Seoul and reciprocate the hospitality very soon. Thank you very much.

MS NAUERT: Thank you. And we have time for two questions total. The first goes to Rich Edson from Fox News Channel. Rich.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. You just mentioned and have mentioned before, as have the South Koreans, that you are looking for permanent, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. How does the United States specifically define that? Is it inspections, full facility dismantling? Is it more than that, less than that? And also, you have had more substantive conversations with Kim Jong-un than arguably any other Westerner. What is your impression of him? Do you think he’s rational? And simply, what’s it like to talk to him?

And to the foreign minister, are South Korea and regional allies discussing providing any sanctions relief to North Korea before the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, and what kind of outcome does South Korea need to secure its security, and does that include the maintenance of current U.S. military assets in the region? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I have spent more time with Chairman Kim other than perhaps President Moon working on this incredibly important challenge that lays before the world. President Trump and the world have set the conditions for a successful outcome from June 12th and the activities that are necessary to follow there from. You asked about my conversations with Chairman Kim. This question is sort of undignified, Is he rational? Yes, we had good conversations, substantive conversations, conversations that involve deep, complex problems, challenges the strategic decision that Chairman Kim has before him about how it is he wishes to proceed and if he is prepared in exchange for the assurances that we’re ready to provide to him if he is prepared to fully denuclearize. And I’m not sure how to define it fully.

It’s pretty clear what that means. It would be an activity that undertook to ensure that we didn’t end up in the same place that we’d ended up before, or multiple passes at trying to solve this conundrum for the world, how to ensure that North Korea doesn’t possess the capacity to threaten not only the United States but the world with nuclear weapons. And so in order to achieve that, it will require a robust verification program and one that we will undertake with partners around the world, which will achieve that outcome in a way that frankly no agreement before it has ever set forth. A big undertaking for sure, but one that Chairman Kim and I had the opportunity to have a good, sound discussion on so that I think we have a pretty good understanding between our two countries about what the shared objectives are.

QUESTION: What’s he like?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: What’s he like?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We had good conversations. There � it was � there’s some videos that have been released. You can see our conversations were warm. We were each representing our two countries, trying our best to make sure that we were communicating clearly, that we had a shared understanding about what our mutual objectives were. But we had good conversations about the histories of our two nations, the challenges that we’ve had between us. We talked about the fact that America has often in history had adversaries who we are now close partners with, and our hope that we could achieve the same with respect to North Korea.

MS NAUERT: All right. Thank you, Rich. Our next question goes to Yonhap News Agency.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: Could I just —

MS NAUERT: Oh, pardon me.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: — answer that —

MS NAUERT: Yes.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: I think your question about sanctions relief, I think we were very clear that the sanctions remain in place until and unless we see visible, meaningful action taken by North Korea on the denuclearization track. The North Korean leader has committed to denuclearization, and formally so through the Panmunjom Declaration. We very much hope to see further steps, more concrete steps towards denuclearization being produced at the U.S.-North Korea summit. So we’re not talking about sanctions relief at this point.

Your question about what are we looking in terms of for our own security, we are confident of our security through the Korea-U.S. joint security stance, which is why we say the issue of the alliance � any issue of the alliance, including the troop presence in our country, is a matter for our two allies to discuss and not to be put on the table with North Korea.

MS NAUERT: Okay. And our next question goes to Yonhap, to Mr. Lee Seungwoo.

QUESTION: Hello, Secretaries.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi.

QUESTION: So I have two questions for each of you. So —

MS NAUERT: We only have time for one, please. Thank you.

QUESTION: Oh, yeah. One for —

MS NAUERT: Yes, one.

QUESTION: Okay. So one for our Minister Kang. Can I say in Korean?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: Sure.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Recently, there was a talk that possibly USFK can be reduced. Was it discussed in your bilateral talks today? And when President Moon visits Washington D.C. before the Pyongyang and Washington, D.C. talks, what kind of coordination did you make in the run-up to this upcoming discussion between Pyongyang and Washington, D.C.?

(In English) (Inaudible) Pyonyang and (inaudible) Kim Jong-un, and our historic summit between President Trump and Kim is fully set up. However, the key issue is dismantling North Korea’s WMD. And I guess there’s a quite a big gap between U.S. and north standpoint. So did you actually discuss the issue with Kim, with � this issue with Kim? And have you two narrowed the differences? And do you think he’s willing to give up his WMD? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: (Via interpreter) So there was no talk about reducing USFK at all. If there was any talk about USFK, it was only about how solid our alliance is, and any issue, any discussion about USFK or alliance should be discussed as such, between our two nations which are in alliance, and not in North Korea and U.S. talks, which was confirmed by Secretary Pompeo. And May 22nd is the day when U.S. President, the South Korean president will meet again. And along the way, President Trump and President Moon have a close relationship and trust with each other, and it played a key role. So in the run-up to the North Korea and the U.S. summit, discussion between the two leaders will play a key role in preparing and setting the tone for the talks. So we are making our best effort to best prepare for this summit.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Your question was about were details discussed. We had quite a conversation about it. I’m not going to share that here; we’re not going to negotiate the details of the agreement in this setting. We’ll do it in conversations between our leaders and our working teams that are hard at preparing for the summit. I am confident that we have a shared understanding of the outcome that the leaders want � certainly Presidents Trump and � President Trump and Chairman Kim, but I think President Moon as well. I think we have a shared vision for what we hope, when this process is completed, the Korean Peninsula looks like. I think we have a good understanding, and I think there is complete agreement about what the ultimate objectives are.

We began to work through the modalities, how we would achieve that, but I’ll leave conversations about that to another time. So thank you for your question.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Lao Nationals, Foreign Residents No Longer Need To Complete Immigration Forms

General Department of Police, Ministry of Public Security has issued the notice No 707/502, dated Apr 26, 2018 urging directors of police office at the provincial police headquarter in Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Champassak to cancel asking Lao people and foreign nationals residing in the Lao PDR to complete immigration forms when they leave or enter the country at the four main international airports.

The four airports include Wattay International Airport, Luang Prabang International Airport, Savannakhet International Airport and Pakse International Airport.

The cancelation of filling in immigration forms aims to create convenience for travelers entering or leaving the Lao PDR and positive response to the launch of Visit Laos Year 2018. Immigration information shall be entered into computers. However, foreigners and stateless people still need to complete immigration forms until new notice is issued, said Director of General Department of Police Brig. Bounmy Sengkhamyong.

Source: Lao News Agency

On-the-Record-Briefing

MS FITZSIMMONS: Thank you, good morning from the State Department. Thank you to everyone for joining us for today’s background briefing on the upcoming opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. We have two briefers this morning. Our briefers are the United States Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who will be referred to as Senior Administration Official One. We are also joined by Special Assistant to the President, and Senior Director for Strategic Assessment of the National Security Council, Victoria Coates. She will be referred to as from here on as Senior Administration Official Two. I just want to remind everyone that this morning’s call is on background and is embargoed until the conclusion of the call. I’ll turn things over now to Ambassador Friedman, who will open with brief remarks, and then will take your questions. Thank you.[1]

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: Thanks very much. This is David Friedman. We’re very excited about the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem, Israel on Monday afternoon. I’m speaking to you now from Tel Aviv. We just had a little toast where we all got together and toasted our last day as Embassy Tel Aviv on Monday. People will be coming back to work as the embassy branch of the Jerusalem embassy, and we’re � I think we’re all very happy and excited to be participating in such a historic event. People have been working literally around the clock in getting ready for our opening dedication ceremony on Monday. We’ll be ready. We are expecting about 800 people. We are expecting a healthy number of dignitaries from the Congress. You’re aware of the presidential delegation; there’ll be others.

And we are extremely proud of the fact that we have been able to open the embassy, as the President likes to say, ahead of schedule and under budget. And I think it’s a great testament to the skills of the White House and being able not only to � not only having the vision and the courage to make the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but then to follow through in a very cost-effective and efficient way, such that we are opening our embassy roughly four and a half months from the � or five months from the President’s decision.

With that, I’m happy to take questions.

MS FITZSIMMONS: Beth, we’re ready for questions. Can you open the lines please?

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, again, if you would like to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your touchtone phone. Our first question comes from the line of David Clark with AFP. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello, hello?

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: Yes.

QUESTION: Hello?

MS FITZSIMMONS: Dave, we can hear you, go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Hello? Can you hear me?

MS FITZSIMMONS: Dave, this is Elizabeth, we can hear you. Go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry, yes. Hi. Obviously, the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem is a longstanding request of the Israeli Government. Did they � did they give you any concessions towards your concerns towards the restarting of the peace process in exchange for this?

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: The decision to open the embassy in Jerusalem was made by the United States, and it was � the United States, it used to be an American interest to open the embassy. So it was not something that was done at the � the Israelis are obviously desirous of this, and they’ve requested this, and they’re very happy by it. But the decision was made because it was viewed to be in the best interests of the United States and something the President had promised during the campaign, and something the United States felt was in its best interests. And so no, there was no give and take with Israel with regard to this decision.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS FITZSIMMONS: We’re ready for the next question.

OPERATOR: And our next question comes from the line of Sarah Macklin with NPR. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Can you just tell us � obviously, there have been concerns by past administrations about making this move, whether it would sort of upset whatever balance exists there right now. How do you expect this to affect sort of the mood in the region?

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: We focus on the environments around us very carefully. There are people who are happy with the decision, there are people who are unhappy with the decision. I think it’s far too early to be measuring reactions. In the long run, we’re convinced that this decision creates an opportunity and a platform to proceed with a peace process on the basis of realities rather than fantasies, and we’re fairly optimistic that this decision will ultimately create greater stability rather than less.

MS COATES: And if I could just add to that, David, we had yesterday the Bahrain foreign minister tweeting support for Israel’s right to self-defense against Iranian aggression. So I think that pretty much wraps up any notion that this has isolated Israel in any way in the region.

OPERATOR: And our next question comes from the line of Felicia Schwartz with WSJ. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. I missed the ground rules at the top, so I’ll figure that out later, but I know, ambassador, you said that the U.S. did this because it was in its own self-interests, but between the U.S. pulling out of the Iran deal this week and opening the embassy next week, it seems like the Trump administration is drawing very close with Netanyahu’s government. So I was wondering if you could talk about the relationship between Trump and Mr. Netanyahu and what you think the prospects are and what the common interests are going forward.

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: Look, Israel has always been an extremely important ally to the United States and that’s, I think, growing ever more important over time, really unrelated to the relationship of the leaders. This is the very important relationship. President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a very close relationship, a relationship of great mutual respect and trust, and I think that that certainly creates a conducive atmosphere to the relationship. But again, the United States makes its decisions on the basis of what’s in the best interests of the United States, and whether it’s the Jerusalem decision or the decision on Iran or � I could name 10 more � the analysis is what is in the best interests of the United States.

OPERATOR: And our next question comes from the line of Josh Lederman with AP. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey, thank you for doing this. I wanted to see if you could talk about the isolation that this has created between the U.S. and some of our European allies and others. And specifically, if you could talk about who you expect to be coming to the reception, to the opening of this, whether it’s accurate that roughly 56 out of the 86 foreign ambassadors who serve in Israel will not be coming, and that many have said that they � particularly the EU countries, are staying away out of principle and how you respond to that sentiment. Thanks.

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: Okay. I think you’re confusing two different events. The Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, I believe, is holding � they’re holding an event Sunday night. They have invited the diplomatic corps and I really have no familiarity with who’s coming or who’s not, but I’ve read that there are people who are coming, people who are not. The opening of the embassy is a bilateral celebration between Israel and the United States. We have not invited any of the diplomatic corps, and so it would be incorrect to report that any other nation declined our invitation because we simply didn’t send any out.

As far as isolation is concerned, we’re not isolated from our allies. It’s � it’s not the case. There’s healthy disagreements from time to time between our allies, but this decision has not created any isolation of any kind.

OPERATOR: And our next question —

MS COATES: I just —

OPERATOR: Okay.

MS COATES: If I could just add to that, Josh, on April 13th, we executed a seamless joint exercise with the Brits and the French against Syria, which was so tightly wrapped together, and that was after the Jerusalem decision in the knowledge that this was going to happen. So it has absolutely no impact on the way we’re working with our European allies.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Kristen Welker with NBC News. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for doing this call. Two questions, and I apologize if someone already asked this: Can you say specifically how President Trump will mark the opening of the embassy? Will he be doing something concurrently? And can you also weigh in on the comments by Bahrain essentially saying Israel has the right to defend itself against Iran? I believe that’s the first time they’ve said that so definitively. What’s the significance of that? Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: Victoria, I � you may have more current information than me on the President. I mean, the President, from my side of things, will be addressing the audience by video. As far as Bahrain is concerned, I’d leave that to Victoria.

MS COATES: The only other piece I can add to that is that we are going to be having an event at the EEOB for staff, and I assume for anybody from the administration who’s interested in coming over, and can get through the Secret Service, just to watch the event. So that’s what we will be doing on our level.

As for the Bahrain tweet, I think that just is enormously important, and there were further comments in a Jerusalem Post article yesterday from their foreign minister about just focusing on the intolerable aggression of Iran. And obviously, that’s something that predated the President’s decision on the JCPOA that actually precipitated the decision that their behavior hadn’t improved. And I think it’s so important to see a Gulf nation, an Arab nation like Bahrain come out, recognize Israel as a country, which is something, and then a country that has the right to defend itself against a country like Iran. And I just � I think that’s � the sea change has been coming over a period of years, but to come out publicly and make that statement, I think is really powerful, and to make it three days before the embassy move, I think it shows you that the President is absolutely doing the right thing here. It is not upsetting any regional balance; in fact, his leadership is what’s bringing the region together.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Eric Cortellessa with Times of Israel. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. Ambassador Friedman, you mentioned earlier that the decision to open the embassy in Jerusalem was one that was made in American self-interest. I’m wondering if you can kind of explicate a little bit more about how you see this as advancing American interests. As you know, one of the big criticisms that was out there on the time of the announcement was that this was sort of the crown jewel of American foreign policy, and that the Trump Administration was giving it up and not getting anything back in return. And I’m also wondering, what sort of preparations or concerns do you have about potential Palestinian protests and demonstrations that might happen in conjunction with the opening of the embassy next week?

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: Okay, well, I could speak about your first question for longer than the time we have, but I guess I’ll put it simply like this: I think there are two important American interests that are vindicated here. The first is the American interest for peace and stability in the region. And we’ve recognized the obvious, which is that despite the best of intentions, after 51 years since the Six Day War, 70 since the State of Israel was created, and something like 23 since � 24 since Oslo, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no closer to a solution than it’s ever been. And that’s with the best efforts and thinking of people who devoted their lives to trying to find a resolution.

One of the things that we thought was important in terms of the conflict was to look at the various leverage points and to see how we thought we could adjust those to create a better dynamic for peace. What the President saw was that the Palestinians essentially had a veto over the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, meaning that if you say we’re only going to have � we’re only going to recognize Jerusalem as the capital when the Palestinians say it’s okay, you’re empowering the leverage in a way that’s not helpful. And frankly, that card has been misplayed over many years. Now, people can get unhappy about losing that leverage point in the short run, but in � at the longer run, there’s also a recognition that circumstances are changing, that the world is moving ahead and people have to kind of get on board before events overtake them.

And we think that notwithstanding, again, you can’t � this is a 50-plus-year conflict, maybe it’s a 500-year conflict depending upon how you gauge it. You can’t measure it in terms of weeks or months any more than you can measure climate change in terms of weeks and months. You have to look at the thing at a broader perspective. And so from the broader perspective, we think this is going to help stability.

In terms of potential conflicts, we look at this issue hourly. We work closely with our law enforcement and security establishments here, and our own people here in the � from the United States. And we work closely with Israeli police, with the Shin Bet, and we measure the risk of demonstrations and violence minute by minute. And so we � we’re confident that we’re considering all potential issues and risks, and doing everything we can to mitigate those risks and to keep people safe.

MS COATES: And Eric, I would just add that � I mean, we’re Americans. We support the right for peace � to peaceful protest. But the operative word there is peaceful, and particularly as you look at what’s going on down in Gaza, there are a lot of people who are legitimately protesting the very, very difficult humanitarian situation that they are enduring. But at the same time, you have some people flying kites as symbols of freedom, you have some people flying kites with Swastikas, and gas bombs attached to them, and that’s intolerable. So I think we need to blame that violence not on anything the United States has done or Israel has done, but firmly on Hamas.

OPERATOR: And our next question comes from the line of Nick Wadhams with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Mr. Ambassador, you mentioned you’re in Tel Aviv. Can you tell us when you plan to move full time to Jerusalem, and also let us know what is the plan for a larger embassy complex? When the announcement was initially unveiled, there was a lot of conversation about how it’s going to be a multi-year process to identify that site and proceed with that building, and obviously, it would be quite costly. What’s the plan for that building? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: So, first of all, in terms of my own whereabouts, I have been splitting my time between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv already since the day I got here. As you know, the prime minister’s office and the president’s office in the Knesset are all in Jerusalem, and I spend a lot of time both with the prime minister and the president and with members of the Knesset. So I am constantly going back and forth to Jerusalem and I will continue to do that. The difference is that now I can have meetings in my office in an embassy rather than renting a room at the King David Hotel. So I’ll have � I’ll continue to go back and forth because much of Israel is based in Jerusalem and much of the commerce and other aspects of Israel are based in Tel Aviv. How that tends to adjust is really � it changes week to week, day to day. It’s a very fluid, fluid schedule.

We will start the transition as quickly as we can. We have something like 18 acres in Arnona. There’s huge capacity there to expand. There are other sites that potentially could be available to us as well. This is not going � I think there’ll be interim steps, probably a good number between now and the full transition, but we’re going to try to do it as efficiently and effectively as we can, and I think a lot of that is still in the works, but I don’t think � this is not going to be all or nothing, where there’ll be myself and a few people � and even on day one, we’re going to have more than 50 people working at the embassy because we have the consular section working on visas and passports and serving American citizens. They’re all there on day one, so we’re going to start off with about a 50-60 person operation, and then it will grow. The exact timing of that and the transition and how we do it we’re still working on.

OPERATOR: And our next question comes from the line of Michael Wilner with Jerusalem Post. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. Two quick questions: First, there were several senior administration officials who indicated that they wanted to come � obviously, the President himself, the Vice President, the UN Envoy Nikki Haley. Did they not make it for security reasons or what was behind that? And then secondly, when, Ambassador, Israelis come to you and they say, obviously, we’re experiencing this unprecedented Iranian aggression, as they put it, and they’re concerned with the President’s plans to pull out the U.S. presence from Syria, what do you tell them?

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: On � the premise of the second question is just not correct because no Israeli has yet to come to me and tell me that they’re unhappy or upset about the President’s decision, so I can’t tell you what I tell them because it never happens. I’m not saying it might not happen, but it has not happened. The � but see, I can’t speak for the President or the Vice President or Ambassador Haley and why they are not coming. I believe it all has to do with scheduling, but I just don’t know their schedules well enough. But as you know, the President’s got a lot on his plate and I’m sure that he’d love to be here if he could.

MS COATES: Yeah, I would just add to that. I mean, we obviously have a robust delegation going. Secretary Pompeo was just there. I mean, we have regular � obviously, very high-level visits, and I wouldn’t read much into the scheduling. And as for the Syria policy, I mean, the President said very clearly � I believe it was in the Merkel presser about 10 days ago � that the United States is not interested in leaving Syria for Iran to just run amuck, that we take that threat very seriously, we take Israeli concerns extremely seriously, but we’re not going to signal exactly what our policy is going to be in terms of troop numbers.

OPERATOR: And our next question comes from the line of Said Arakat with Al Quds newspaper. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you for doing this. I have my question to the ambassador, two things: Do you still consider East Jerusalem to be occupied? Do you still consider the West Bank to be occupied? Because you have all issued statements that are quite contrary to this. What is the status of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as far as you are concerned?

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: Well, look, I’m � I have my own personal views on the ambassador to Israel of the United States. I’m not the ultimate policymaker, so I’m going to defer to others. I think the � I think the situation in the West Bank is unique and unprecedented from a � compared to any other particular geographic locations that have similar issues, and I think it really calls for unique and different kinds of thinking, but as far as the actual terminology, I think I’ve expressed my views in the past. But I’ll stand on those and allow the policymakers to answer your question at the right time.

MS FITZSIMMONS: We have time for two more questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Isabelle Kershner with New York Times. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Actually my question has been asked, but since I have the chance, I’ll just ask another one if it’s not too personal, Ambassador Friedman. The official residence of the ambassador is in HerzliyaPituach. I was wondering, are you looking for a new home in Jerusalem, are you able to stay in the home you already have in Jerusalem, and when do you expect to actually move your residence to Jerusalem as opposed to the office full-time?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, my wife just asked me the same question, and I’ll � give you an answer. I’m not � I’m not sure, I’m not sure. The � Israel’s a small country, there’s a lot happening in Tel Aviv, there’s a lot happening in Jerusalem. You can go back and forth every day. It’s not an ideal commute, but it’s commutable. Long term, there’s no question that we need to find a chief of mission residence in Jerusalem. I think that’s something we’re going to � that’s on the list of things to do in terms of the overall transition of the embassy, but when we do that, that would be great. My apartment in Jerusalem, I’ve been told, is not an eligible opportunity, so it won’t be that, but it’s something we’re still working on.

OPERATOR: And our last call —

MS FITZSIMMONS: We have time for one more question, thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our last call comes � question comes from the line of DoniaChiacu with Reuters. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Oh, hello. I was just wondering if you could tell me if any of the U.S. delegation coming for the embassy opening had plans to meet with any Palestinian authorities during their visit, and also what the effect of the opening of the embassy will have on peace prospects.

AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: I’m not aware of any members from the delegation that are meeting with the Palestinians, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not, it’s just I’m not � not aware of it. They may have something else on their schedule.

Look, I think the peace process is going to go forward. I think there’s � my own view and my own experience in discussions with many different Palestinians is that there remains a significant interest for peace, for better life, for better education, better roads and hospitals and all the things that could be made available in this region if there was more peace and less violence. And so we’re committed to it, the President is, Mr. Kushner, Mr. Greenblatt are hard at work at it, and we remain optimistic that we will � that we will make significant progress.

Source: U.S. Department of State

ASEAN Writer’ Symposium and Literature Book Meeting Held In Vientiane

The ASEAN Writer’ Symposium and Literature Books seminar is being held on May 10-12, 2018 in Dongdok Campus of the National University of Laos, Vientiane Capital.

The seminars are among the project activities within the purview of the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information and funded by ASEAN Cultural Fund.

The events provides us ASEAN writers a great opportunity to closely join hands and put our efforts together to realize ASEAN Community Vision 2025, particularly the ASEAN Social-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025, Mr Thongbay Phothisane, Director General of the Heritage Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism told the opening ceremony on May 10.

To ensure the key objectives of the project are productively achieved, 2 sessions of technical discussion among ASEAN writers and literature exhibition will be conducted over the next three days under the theme of ASEAN Literature on Creative Life and Culture in Globalization Era where all ASEAN participants can exchange common views and share advanced lessons and experiences on how to attract more public readers and widely promote ASEAN literature stories in our region thus contributing to raising better awareness of ASEAN, said Mr Thongbay, also the Chairman of the National ASEAN Sub-committee on Culture and President of the Lao National Writers’ Association.

The seminar is not only help promote deeper understanding of cultural diversity, uniqueness, strong solidarity, unity and harmony of ASEAN but also create ASEAN awareness by exhibiting different series of ASEAN literature books to the public especially young generations, added Mr Thongbay.

Source: Lao News Agency

Lao Product Branding For World Market Discussed

The National Chamber of Industry and Commerce on May 7 in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme held a meeting to discuss Lao product branding to promote access to world market thus ensuring sustainable incomes for Lao products.

The meeting saw the participation of representatives of well-known companies from England, government sectors, international organisations, National University of Laos, tourism industry and business community.

This meeting is held to promote the sharing of how to brand Lao products to make sure Lao brands can access high level markets namely EU, USA or other countries. Nowadays, the Lao product is yet to penetrate these markets effectively. Therefore if we can penetrate these markets our national revenues will increase as a result, and we will have sustainable incomes, said President of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Oudeth Souvannavong who added that the focus of Lao branding efforts will be agricultural industry, tourism, handicraft, and small and medium industries with competitive potentials.

The chamber of Commerce and Industry is considering what kinds of products worth exporting overseas.

The chamber has recently indentified some products in agriculture and handicraft sectors namely coffee, tea, khao kai noy (traditional rice only grown in Xieng Khuang and Houaphan), silk, and cultural and natural tourism.

Source: Lao News Agency