Nepali Reaches Summit of Everest for Record 30th Time 

Veteran Sherpa guide Kami Rita returning after scaling Mount Everest for the 28th time arrives at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 25, 2023. (AP)
Veteran Sherpa guide Kami Rita returning after scaling Mount Everest for the 28th time arrives at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 25, 2023. (AP)
TT

Nepali Reaches Summit of Everest for Record 30th Time 

Veteran Sherpa guide Kami Rita returning after scaling Mount Everest for the 28th time arrives at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 25, 2023. (AP)
Veteran Sherpa guide Kami Rita returning after scaling Mount Everest for the 28th time arrives at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 25, 2023. (AP)

Nepali climber Kami Rita Sherpa broke his own record Wednesday as the person to have scaled Mount Everest the most times, achieving the milestone 30th ascent of the world's highest peak.

The 54-year-old, known as "Everest Man", reached the summit for the 29th time earlier this month, before climbing to the top again.

"Kami Rita reached the summit this morning. Now he has made a new record with 30 summits of Everest," Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks, his expedition organizer, told AFP.

A guide for more than two decades, Sherpa first stood on the 8,849-meter (29,000-foot) peak in 1994 when working for a commercial expedition.

Since then he has climbed Everest almost every year, guiding clients.

"I am glad for the record, but records are eventually broken," he told AFP after his 29th climb on May 12.

"I am more happy that my climbs help Nepal be recognized in the world."

Last year, Sherpa climbed Everest twice to reclaim his record after another guide, Pasang Dawa Sherpa, equaled his number of ascents.

Kami Rita Sherpa previously said that he has been "just working" and did not plan on setting records.

He has also conquered other 8,000-meter peaks including the world's second-highest mountain, K2 in Pakistan.

- Romanian climber dies -

His success on reaching the top came as the season's death toll climbed to five.

A Romanian climber died during a bid to scale Lhotse, the fourth-highest mountain, his expedition organizer said.

"He was found dead in his tent on Camp Three on Monday morning by his guide," said Mohan Lamsal of Makalu Adventure, naming the climber as Gabriel Viorel Tabara.

Everest and Lhotse share the same route until diverting at 7,200 meters.

"We are making efforts to bring his body down," he said.

Earlier this week, two Mongolian climbers went missing and were later found dead after summiting Everest.

Two more climbers, one French and one Nepali, have died this season on Makalu, the world's fifth-highest peak.

Nepal has issued more than 900 permits for its mountains this year, including 419 for Everest, earning more than $5 million in royalties.

Around 500 climbers and their guides have already reached the summit of Everest after a rope-fixing team reached the peak last month.

This year, China also reopened the Tibetan route to foreigners for the first time since closing it in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Nepal is home to eight of the world's 10 highest peaks and welcomes hundreds of adventurers each spring, when temperatures are warm and winds typically calm.

Last year more than 600 climbers made it to the summit of Everest, but it was also the deadliest season on the mountain, with 18 fatalities.



What is China's Panda Diplomacy and How Does it Work?

Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)
Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)
TT

What is China's Panda Diplomacy and How Does it Work?

Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)
Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)

During a visit to Australia this week, Chinese Premier Li Qiang made a classic goodwill gesture that boded well for relations between the two countries: he offered to send pandas.
The offer comes as ties between Australia and its largest trading partner improve after a diplomatic dispute that led to China imposing a raft of restrictions on Australian agricultural and mineral exports in 2020.
Native to China, pandas have through the years become "envoys of friendship", earning China's outreach to countries it gifts the animals to the name of panda diplomacy, Reuters said.
They have also been used to show Chinese anger.
So what is panda diplomacy and how does it work?
WHEN DID PANDA DIPLOMACY START?
Since its founding in 1949, the People's Republic of China has used panda diplomacy to boost its international image, either by gifting or lending panda to foreign zoos as goodwill animal ambassadors.
Former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1957 gifted a panda, Ping Ping, to the former Soviet Union to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution that ushered in the Soviet regime.
To further cement ties with its socialist allies, China dispatched another panda to the Soviet Union in 1959 and five more to North Korea between 1965 and 1980.
In 1972, Beijing gifted two pandas, Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, to the United States after then President Richard Nixon's historic visit, in a sign of normalized China-US relations and marking a pivotal moment for China's foreign policy.
Since then, other countries including Japan, France, Britain and Spain have also been given panda.
WHAT'S THE PANDA DIPLOMACY POLICY?
Since 1984, China stopped gifting pandas due to their dwindling numbers and began loaning them to overseas zoos instead, often in pairs for 10 years, with an annual fee of up to about $1 million.
While keeping pandas can be costly for zoos, they are seen as drawcards for visitors and help generate income.
The pandas typically return home to southwest China after the loan agreement ends. Panda cubs born overseas are no exception, and would be sent home between the age of two and four to join a Chinese breeding program.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
China has a history of using pandas to reward its trading partners. A 2013 Oxford University study said the timing of China's lease of pandas to Canada, France and Australia "coincided with" uranium deals and contracts with these countries.
The panda agreements with other countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, also coincided with the signing of free-trade agreements.
Sometimes, pandas are also used to express China's displeasure with a nation.
In 2010, China recalled two US-born pandas, Tai Shan and Mei Lan, after Beijing warned Washington against a scheduled meeting between then-President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, which Beijing views as a dangerous separatist.
In a recent downturn in bilateral ties, Ya Ya, on loan to the US for 20 years, was returned in April 2023.
Concerns over her health had also fanned nationalist sentiment on China's social media, with animal advocates accusing the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee of providing inadequate care to the animal.
In November last year, three other pandas left, leaving only four giant pandas on US soil.
That month, Chinese President Xi Jinping then hinted that he was open to sending more pandas to the US after meeting with President Joe Biden in California, a gesture seen as Chinese willingness to improve ties.
ARE PANDAS STILL ENDANGERED?
China's domestic conservation programs have seen the status of pandas improve from endangered to vulnerable.
The population of giant pandas in the wild has grown from around 1,100 in the 1980s to 1,900 in 2023.
There are currently 728 pandas in zoos and breeding centers around the world.