Earth’s richest man Bezos, 3 others, to blast off into space

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and Crew Capsule mockup in Colorado Springs, US, on April 5, 2017. (REUTERS/file photo)
Short Url
Updated 18 July 2021

Earth’s richest man Bezos, 3 others, to blast off into space

WASHINGTON: Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, is set to join the astronaut club Tuesday on the first crewed launch by Blue Origin, another key moment in a big month for the fledgling space tourism industry.
The mission comes days after Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson crossed the final frontier, narrowly besting the Amazon magnate in their battle of the billionaires.
Blue Origin’s sights are, however, set higher: both literally in terms of the altitude to which its reusable New Shepard craft will ascend compared to Virgin’s spaceplane, but also in its future ambitions.
Bezos founded Blue Origin back in 2000, with the goal of one day building floating space colonies with artificial gravity where millions of people will work and live.
Today, the company is developing a heavy-lift orbital rocket called New Glenn and also a Moon lander it is hoping to contract to NASA under the Artemis program.
“They’ve had 15 successful New Shepard uncrewed flights and we’ve been waiting years to see when they’re going to start flying people,” Laura Forczyk, founder of space consulting firm Astralytical, told AFP, calling it an “exciting time” for enthusiasts.
New Shepard will blast off at 8:00 am Central Time (1300 GMT) on July 20 from a remote facility in the west Texas desert called Launch Site One, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the nearest town, Van Horn.
The event will be live streamed on BlueOrigin.com beginning an hour and a half before.




This undated image shows an illustration of the capsule that will be used to take tourists into space. (Blue Origin via AP)

Joining Bezos on the fully autonomous flight will be barrier-breaking female aviator Wally Funk, who at 82 is set to be the oldest ever astronaut, Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, the company’s first paying customer, who will become the youngest astronaut.
Rounding out the four-member crew is Jeff Bezos’ brother Mark, a financier who directs the Bezos Family Foundation and works as a volunteer firefighter.
The pair are best friends, and Jeff shared the moment he asked his younger sibling to join him in a viral video on Instagram last month.
Notably absent is the mysterious winner of a $28 million auction for a seat, who had “scheduling conflicts” and will take part in a future flight, and has asked to remain anonymous, the company said.
After lift-off, New Shepard will accelerate toward space at speeds exceeding Mach 3 using a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine with no carbon emissions.
The capsule soon separates from its booster, and the astronauts unbuckle and begin to experience weightlessness.
The crew will spend a few minutes beyond the Karman line — the internationally recognized boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, at 62 miles altitude (100 kilometers), as the spacecraft peaks at 65 miles high (106 kilometers).
They will be able to admire the curvature of the planet — and the inky black of the rest of the universe — from large windows that comprise a third of the cabin’s surface area.
The booster returns autonomously to a landing pad just north of its launch site, while the capsule freefalls back to Earth before deploying three giant parachutes, and finally a thruster, to land gently in the west Texas desert.

Beyond the first flight, relatively little is known about Blue Origin’s future tourism plans.
The company has a history of secrecy, its existence only becoming public knowledge three years after its creation. It then pursued a policy of “self-imposed silence” until 2015.

Unlike Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin hasn’t officially started selling tickets — Daemen won his spot through the auction process. The company wants two more flights this year, then “many more” in 2022, it told AFP.
Forczyk, the analyst, said it will all depend on the level of demand that is generated by these early flights, and how well the industry recovers from accidents “which there inevitably will be, because spaceflight is inherently risky.”
Elon Musk’s SpaceX will enter the fray in September with an all-civilian orbital expedition on its Crew Dragon, and is tying up with another company, Axiom, for visits to the International Space Station.
Beyond tourism, Blue Origin would like to supplant SpaceX as NASA’s leading private sector partner, and sees New Shepard as “sort of the stepping stone and also the way to make money along the way for the greater ambition,” said Forczyk.



Who’s who on Blue Origin’s first crewed flight

Jeff Bezos, 57: The spaceship Blue Origin was built by the company he founded in 2000, when he was still merely a single-digit billionaire. Six years before that, he started a small online bookstore called Amazon.com out of his garage. Bezos’ net worth is today estimated at more than $200 billion.

Mark Bezos: The brother of Jeff is a financier who directs the Bezos Family Foundation and works as a volunteer firefighter. The pair are best friends, and Jeff shared the moment he surprised his sibling, six years his junior, by asking him to join the mission in a video that went viral on Instagram last month.

Wally Funk: At 82, barrier-breaking woman aviator is about to become the oldest ever astronaut, fulfilling a lifelong dream that was thwarted by the sexism of the early space era. Funk, who took her first flying lesson aged nine, excelled in the Mercury 13 project which was intended to train women for space using the same standards as male astronauts, but the program was eventually nixed. She nevertheless had an accomplished career in aviation, becoming the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, and serving as chief pilot in several flight schools.

Oliver Daemen: At 18, she is set to become the youngest astronaut. He holds a private pilot’s license and is a space enthusiast who will study physics in university this fall. The Dutch teen is flying in place of the still anonymous winner of a $28 million public auction, who asked to pass this time because of “scheduling conflicts,” and will go on a later trip. Daemen’s ticket was paid for by his father, the CEO of a private equity firm, CNBC reported.



How can you become a space tourist?

Thrill-seekers might soon be able to get their adrenaline kicks — and envy-inducing Instagram snaps — from the final frontier, as space tourism finally lifts off.
All you’ll need is a bit of patience. And a lot of money.
Here’s a rundown of where things stand.

Two companies are offering short “suborbital” hops of a few minutes: Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket takes off vertically and the crew capsule detaches and crosses the Karman line (62 miles, or 100 kilometers, in altitude), before falling back to Earth with three parachutes.
Virgin Galactic uses a massive carrier plane, which takes off from a horizontal runway then drops a rocket-powered spaceplane. This in turn soars to over 50 miles altitude before gliding back.
In both cases, up to six passengers are able to unbuckle from their seats to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and take in the view of Earth from space.

Virgin Galactic has said regular commercial flights will begin from 2022, following two more test flights. Their waiting list is already long, with 600 tickets so far sold.
But the company predicts it will eventually run up to 400 flights per year. Two seats on one of the first flights are up for grabs in a prize draw: registrations are open until September 1.
As for Blue Origin, no detailed calendar has been announced.
“We’re planning for two more flights this year, then targeting many more in 2022,” a spokesperson told AFP.
Another way to get to space is via reality television. Space Hero, an upcoming show, says it plans to send the winner of a competition to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2023.

The first tickets sold by Virgin Galactic went for between $200,000 and $250,000 each, but the company has warned that the cost for future sales will go up.
Blue Origin hasn’t announced prices. The anonymous winner of a public auction for a seat on the first crewed flight paid $28 million, but decided to defer their trip.
It’s not known what amount was bid for the seat secured by Dutch teen Oliver Daemen, who will fly in the auction winner’s place.
The more “budget conscious” might consider spending $125,000 for a seat on Space Neptune: a capsule that offers 360 degree windows and is lifted to the upper atmosphere by a balloon the size of a football stadium.
Despite the promise of spectacular views, the balloon ascends only 19 miles — far from the boundary of space, and weightlessness.
The 300 seats for 2024 have all been sold, but reservations are open for 2025.

No — you’re only expected to be in reasonable shape. Virgin Galactic’s training lasts just five days.
Blue Origin promises to teach you everything you need to know “the day before you launch,” and its first crewed flight includes pioneering aviator Wally Funk, who at 82 will become the oldest astronaut.
The company’s requirements include being able to climb seven flights of stairs in under 90 seconds (the height of the launch tower) and being between 5’0” and 110 pounds (152 centimeters and 50 kilograms) and 6’4” and 223 pounds (193 cm and 100 kg).

Elon Musk’s company is also getting into the space tourism game, but its plans involve journeys that are far longer. The costs are also predicted to be astronomical — tens of millions of dollars.
In September, American billionaire Jared Isaacman has chartered a mission called Inspiration4 to take him and three other passengers into orbit around the Earth on a SpaceX Crew Dragon, launched into space by a Falcon 9 rocket.
Then in January 2022, three businessmen will travel to the ISS with an experienced astronaut. The mission, named Ax-1, is being organized by the company Axiom Space, which has signed up for three other future flights with SpaceX.
Elon Musk’s company is also planning a trip to orbit for four people, organized by intermediary Space Adventures — the same company in charge of the flight of the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to the ISS in December, aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.
Maezawa is also supposed to take a trip around the Moon in 2023, this time aboard a rocket that is still under development by SpaceX, called Starship.
He invited eight members of the public to join him — but applications are now closed.


‘She threw us into hell’: Pakistani victims of $1.9 million Ponzi scheme narrate their ordeal

Updated 4 min 39 sec ago

‘She threw us into hell’: Pakistani victims of $1.9 million Ponzi scheme narrate their ordeal

  • Victims, mostly women, say they deposited money as part of over 100 BCs run by Sidra Humaid
  • Humaid has requested a Karachi court to provide her security after declaring herself bankrupt

KARACHI: Anila Khan, a 33-year working woman living in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, is scheduled to undergo surgery in March but her plans to go under the knife were shattered, when she came to know that she has been a victim of a multimillion ballot committee (BC) scam and has lost her deposit of Rs150,000 ($672), instead of receiving Rs600,000 ($2,688) for her surgery.

Khan is one of hundreds of victims of the Ponzi scheme, which has so far not been officially reported to the authorities.

The BC is an ages-old traditional method of saving outside of banking systems in which individuals pool money, often without any written record. Under the mechanism based on mutual trust, an individual receives the amount on their turn every month and it goes on until all the people involved are paid off their due sums.

Khan, who had been a regular depositor since September, didn’t know that her plans would fall apart until she came across a “public apology” on the Facebook account of Sidra Humaid, the woman behind the now-famous Ponzi scheme, which has swindled hundreds of people, mostly women, of approximately Rs430 million ($1.93 million) as per the victims’ estimations.

“She deceived me. She threw us into hell,” Khan told Arab News this week. “I am distraught and feel like being backstabbed.”

She said she was not even sure of getting back the amount she had deposited in the last three months, let alone a sum of Rs600,000 she was supposed to get on her turn.

In a Facebook post on November 27, Humaid informed her depositors she had “messed up” her committees and was now “practically bankrupt” with no means to pay the amount owed to them.

“To solve the monthly payments issue I had to start more committees and that eventually resulted in a rolling loop that had no end,” she wrote.

“Now I have to pay so much money that I cannot even calculate.”

Her post dropped like a bombshell on members of over 120 committees she was running, with each member pitching in from Rs5,000 to Rs400,000.

Humaid said if she was supported in her handcraft and home-cooked food businesses, she would be able to earn and pay off the amount.

“If my Croise and Daily Bites are allowed to continue and my customers, friends and loved ones still support my businesses, then I would be able to earn and pay off my loans,” she stated in the post.

But the treasurer did not have a plan or offer a timeframe to pay back people she had taken the huge sums of money from.

Humaid also said she or her family had no properties, and they wouldn’t run away, but the victims said they came to know of her travel history, including a few trips abroad, and later found out she had vacated her home in Karachi as well.

Humaid first began inviting people to join her BCs via Facebook some four years ago, according to victims. Members would deposit their amount into her bank account every month and each one of them would monthly receive a consolidated sum of BCs from the rest in their respective accounts on their turn.

Humaid would also create a WhatsApp account of members for coordination after the launch of a BC. All this continued without any complaints from members until August this year, when Humaid started failing to keep her commitments.

On December 6, she again took to Facebook and informed depositors she had requested a Karachi court to provide her security against what she called “continuous threatening calls, continuous visits of gunda (goon) sorts of people” at her place.

Humaid’s counsel, Kamran Alam, told the court that his client was being accused of doing an online financial fraud even though she neither sold any product nor used any advertisement on online platforms.

To pursue their case, the victims said they created a WhatsApp group where people shared their distressing stories.

The WhatsApp group has now turned into a “mourning meetup” group, with voice notes of women crying and desperately asking for help.

“Sidra deceived us only after building trust for many years,” said Saima Gul, another victim of the Ponzi scheme.

“I had several successful BCs over the last three years, which prompted me to start a committee of Rs30,000 ($133) for myself and another wherein my brother would deposit Rs300,000 ($1,335).”

Gul said she was saving up money to perform Umrah, while her brother joined the BC to pay off the loan he had obtained for the construction of his home.

“Not only do our problems remain unsolved, but we also practically lost Rs1.1 million ($4,896) of our hard-earned money,” she said.

Another victim, Sonia Rashid, who contributed to a committee her share of Rs15,000 for two months, said when she listens to the stories of other victims, it makes her forget her own ordeal.

“There is a woman being kicked out by her husband. Another lady said she was contemplating suicide,” Rashid told Arab News.

“A working lady started BC of Rs50,000 ($222) per month for her marriage next November, she cries at night after disclosing it to her brother. You can’t imagine our pain. This lady has robbed us of our dreams.”

Arab News tried reaching Humaid on her mobile phone, but it remained switched off on Thursday and Friday.

Victims say Humaid occasionally comes online on WhatsApp groups to assure them of returning their money. Many of them are not even sure if they will get back their money in the absence of a written agreement.

But Omar Memon, a noted lawyer in Karachi, said a formal agreement was not necessary for every financial matter.

“As per the law, there can be a verbal agreement. All one needs is circumstantial evidence of the financial relationship,” he told Arab News.

Memon suggested that the victims should immediately approach the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), whose cybercrime and financial crimes wings deal with such issues.

“The victims should also approach the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), which may check the bank accounts [of Humaid] and freeze them,” he said.

“The central bank will see if she has laundered any amount abroad and will also check the possibility of funding any proscribed organization.”

When contacted, Shehzad Haider, a deputy director at the FIA cybercrime wing, said the agency had not received any complaint regarding the matter.

Abid Qamar, an SBP spokesman, said such saving schemes prevail outside of the banking systems only due to a lack of knowledge on people’s part.

“People should utilize the presence of the banking sector which offers various instruments for saving purposes,” he said.

Editor’s note: The names of the victims have been changed after they requested not to be named.


Arab leaders welcome China’s cooperation for development at Riyadh summit

Updated 10 December 2022

Arab leaders welcome China’s cooperation for development at Riyadh summit

  • China will work with Arab countries to support development, food security, health, energy and the environment
  • President Xi Jinping reaffirms Chinese support for the establishment of an independent state of Palestine

RIYADH: Arab countries wish to enhance cooperation with China and look forward to a new phase of partnership, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman said at the inaugural Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development on Friday.

The event was one of two conferences held back to back on the last day of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day state visit to Saudi Arabia.

“The Kingdom is working on enhancing cooperation (with China) to serve international stability,” the crown prince said in the presence of Arab leaders and Xi, who referred to the summit as a historic moment in relations between the Arab countries and China.

Addressing the gathering of leaders, the crown prince, who chaired the summit on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, said: “We welcome you to the first Arab-Chinese summit aimed at raising the level of joint cooperation among the member states of the Arab League and China, in a way that serves the common interests of our countries.”

Xi said both China and Saudi Arabia must focus on economic development and strengthen cooperation based on mutual gains. (KSAMOFA)

He added: “We look with great interest at the steady growth and rapid technological progress achieved by China, which has made it one of the world’s leading economies.

“The convening of this summit establishes a new phase for advancing the relationship between our countries and strengthening partnership in areas of common interest.”

For his part, Xi expressed hope that the summit would “lead to a brighter future,” adding that China sought “comprehensive cooperation” with Arab states to serve Chinese-Arab common interests.

He described the Riyadh summit as a development in the history of Chinese-Arab relations that promises a brighter future amid cooperation between China and Arab states.

The Saudi crown prince said the Kingdom especially values the cooperation of, and partnerships with, the participants of the summit in the context of the Middle East Green Initiative.

Together with the Saudi Green Initiative, the MGI was launched by the crown prince last year as part of efforts to reduce regional carbon emissions.

“We are aware of the challenges posed by climate change and we believe in the need to find more sustainable and comprehensive solutions, while maintaining the levels of growth of the global economy, as we aim to reach carbon neutrality,” the crown prince said.

“We appreciate the role of China in putting forward a number of valuable initiatives, the most important of which is the Friends of Global Development Initiative, which matches many aspects of Saudi Arabia’s priorities toward supporting sustainable development and promoting food security.”

Appreciating China’s position in supporting the two-state solution in dealing with the Palestinian issue and the Arab Peace Initiative, the crown prince said: “Saudi Arabia affirms the need for a just and permanent solution to the Palestine issue in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, in a way that guarantees the Palestinian people’s right to establish an independent state on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

In his speech, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi highlighted the significance of Arab-Chinese ties, saying coordination with China must be increased to resolve regional and international crises.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he stands with China against the “malicious campaigns” it is facing. He also condemned what he called Israel’s attempts to alter the Arab identity of Jerusalem, and demanded that Israel be held accountable for its violations.

Moving on to Syria and Libya, the Saudi crown prince said that the Kingdom attached great importance on doubling efforts aimed at finding political solutions to the current crises, and to ensuring security, stability and prosperity in the two countries.

Reaffirming the Kingdom’s support for efforts aimed at a comprehensive political solution in Yemen, he commended Beijing’s solidarity with Saudi initiatives in Yemen.

Speaking about the long history of Chinese-Arab relations, Xi said: “The friendship continues with its roots in the depths of history, where they met and got to know each other through the old Silk Road.

Saudi crown prince said the Kingdom especially values the cooperation of, and partnerships with, the participants of the summit in the context of the Middle East Green Initiative. (AFP)

“The friendship persisted through the struggles for national liberation, and economic globalization, and continues to uphold rights and justice in a changing and volatile world.

“The spirit of Chinese-Arab friendship of solidarity, synergy, equality, mutual benefit, inclusiveness and mutual benefit were developed through it.”

Making a strong pitch for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Xi said: “The Palestinian cause concerns peace and stability in the Middle East and puts the moral conscience of humanity at stake.

“The historical injustice suffered by the Palestinian people cannot continue. We look forward to the establishment of an independent state that does not accept rejection, and the international community must consolidate faith in a two-state solution.”

Xi reaffirmed that the Chinese side steadfastly supports the establishment of an independent and fully sovereign state of Palestine on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in addition to supporting Palestine’s attainment of full membership at the UN.

He said China will continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian side with the aim of supporting it to carry out livelihood projects, in addition to increasing donations to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

“China and the Arab states trust each other and have brotherly feelings,” Xi said.

“We share unwavering support for issues related to the vital interests of the other side. We unite and progress together on the cause of achieving renaissance and solidarity in the spirit of one team against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He said that during the last 10 years the volume of trade exchange had exceeded $300 billion; the balance of mutual direct investment amounted to $27 billion.

More than 200 projects had been implemented within the framework of cooperation in building the Belt and Road Initiative, which has eventually benefited nearly 2 billion people.

He added: “The Chinese side is keen to deepen mutual strategic confidence with the Arab side and exchange firm support for the efforts of the other side to preserve the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national dignity.

“The two sides adhere jointly to the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, the application of true multilateralism, and the defense of right and the legitimate interests of developing countries.”

Xi said both China and Saudi Arabia must focus on economic development and strengthen cooperation based on mutual gains. He pointed out that the Chinese side supports the Arab side in finding political solutions to thorny issues and in building a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security system in the Middle East.

He highlighted China’s keenness to work with the Arab side to implement joint actions over the next three to five years, covering eight areas: development, food security, health, green development and innovation, energy security, dialogue among civilizations, youth rehabilitation, and security and stability.

He added that Islamophobia and extremism must be confronted.


Saudi Arabia, China emerge as comprehensive strategic partners as Chinese President Xi Jinping wraps up state visit

Updated 10 December 2022

Saudi Arabia, China emerge as comprehensive strategic partners as Chinese President Xi Jinping wraps up state visit

  • Agreement reached on harmonizing Vision 2030 with Belt and Road Initiative and boosting non-oil trade
  • Deepening ties with China does not mean the Kingdom is turning its back on the US, says Saudi foreign minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and China agreed to strengthen their strategic relations and expand commercial ties during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day state visit to the Kingdom.

Xi and his delegation held talks with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the heads of key ministries, resulting in 35 memorandums of understanding and deals worth $30 billion.

The two sides signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement, committing to support each other’s core interests, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to defend the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states.

Addressing the media at the conclusion of Xi’s visit on Friday, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi minister of foreign affairs, said the deepening of relations with China did not mean the Kingdom was turning its back on the US and other Western allies.

China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner. (SPA)

He said: “Saudi Arabia’s main focus is how to grow economically, and through the work with strategic partners we will continue to find ways to enhance bilateral cooperation with all.

“The Kingdom is a member of the G20 and is aiming to become one of the top 15 economies globally. We have to be open to cooperation with everyone.

“There is no doubt that working together with the second largest economy in the world is vital to Saudi Arabia’s growth, but that does not mean that we cannot continue to work with the world’s largest economy.

“We strive to work with all large economies and others around the world. By working with various partners, it will ensure the transition of the Kingdom to another level of growth that cannot happen by declining opportunities from one country to another.

“We have to be open to cooperating with others and that has been the Kingdom’s philosophy to achieve mutual interests.”

The Saudi side reaffirmed its adherence to the one-China principle during the summit, while the Chinese side expressed support for the Kingdom in maintaining its security and stability, and rejected any attacks targeting civilians, civilian infrastructure, territories, and Saudi interests.

“We look to enhance our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with China and find means to develop it beyond trade,” said Prince Faisal. “The partnership supports the Kingdom’s development and serves its interests.”

Regarding regional and international issues, the two sides welcomed the first China-GCC Summit and the first Arab-Chinese Summit, both of which were also held in Riyadh on Friday.

The two sides stressed the importance of enhancing cooperation through the high-level Saudi-Chinese Joint Committee to achieve common goals, enhance cooperation, and intensify communication between government and private sectors.

Both sides stressed the importance of stability in the global oil markets and agreed to explore common investment opportunities in petrochemicals, and to enhance cooperation in solar, wind, and other sources of renewable energy.

They also agreed to cooperate on hydrocarbons, energy efficiency, localization of energy sector components and supply chains, in addition to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the development of technologies like artificial intelligence.

In particular, the delegations stressed the importance of deepening cooperation with regard to the Belt and Road Initiative, including involvement in energy and investment partnerships and making use of the Kingdom’s location as a regional center.

The two sides welcomed the signing of the “harmonization plan” between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Xi announced the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative — formerly known as One Belt One Road — in 2013.

The initiative sets out to connect the markets and manufacturers of East Asia to those of Europe via a vast logistical and digital network running through Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa in a modern-day reimagining of the ancient Silk Road.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative shares the same goal of boosting interconnectivity through cooperation in energy, trade, investment and technology as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda, launched in 2016 by the Saudi crown prince.

FASTFACTS

Saudi and Chinese officials signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement, committing to support each other’s core interests.

• Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi minister of foreign affairs, said deepening ties with China did not mean the Kingdom is turning its back on the US.

• Chinese President Xi Jinping and his delegation took part in summits on Friday with GCC representatives and Arab heads of state.

China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner. According to Reuters news agency, bilateral trade between the two countries hit $87.3 billion in 2021, with Chinese exports to the Kingdom reaching $30.3 billion and China’s imports from Saudi Arabia totaling $57 billion.

China’s main exports to Saudi Arabia are textiles, electronics and machinery, while China mainly imports crude oil and primary plastics from the Kingdom. In the first 10 months of 2022, China’s Saudi oil imports reached 1.77 million barrels per day, valued at $55.5 billion, according to Chinese customs data.

The delegations agreed to boost the volume of non-oil trade, increase joint investments, expand capacity for commercial airlines, motivate private sector investment, and create an attractive investment environment.

The two sides stressed the importance of enhancing cooperation through the high-level Saudi-Chinese Joint Committee to achieve common goals. (SPA)

In particular they agreed to deepen cooperation in the automotive industry, supply chains, logistics, water desalination, infrastructure, manufacturing, mining, and the financial sector.

The Saudi side said it hopes to attract Chinese expertise to participate in the Kingdom’s forthcoming mega-projects, and for Chinese companies to open regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia.

The two sides also welcomed agreements concerning hydrogen energy, the judiciary, Chinese language education, housing, direct investment, radio and television, the digital economy, economic development, standardization, the news media, tax administration, and anti-corruption.

The Chinese delegation also expressed its keenness to deepen investment cooperation in the digital economy and green development, enhance cooperation in e-commerce, and explore means of joint economic and trade cooperation with Africa.

Regarding the shared challenge of climate change, the Chinese delegation welcomed the Kingdom’s Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative and expressed its support for Saudi Arabia’s application of the circular carbon economy.

They also agreed to urge developed countries to take their historic responsibilities seriously, through the fulfillment of their obligations by greatly reducing emissions before the target date, and to tangibly help developing countries through financial, technical, and capacity-building support.

The two sides stressed the need to strengthen partnership in communications, digital economy, innovation, and space, to achieve better digital infrastructure for the future generations in both countries.

They also stressed the importance of enhancing cooperation and joint action on developing the air and sea transport sectors, modern transport modes and railways, and expediting the completion of studies on the Saudi land bridge project.

Both delegations affirmed their determination to develop cooperation in defense to combat organized crime, terrorism, and cybercrimes.

They also stressed the importance of strengthening health cooperation to combat current and future health threats and pandemics, and agreed to develop cooperation in the areas of heritage, culture, sport, tourism, and science.


China and GCC ‘natural partners for cooperation,’ Chinese President Xi Jinping tells Riyadh summit

Updated 10 December 2022

China and GCC ‘natural partners for cooperation,’ Chinese President Xi Jinping tells Riyadh summit

  • To be partners, China and GCC states must harmonize development strategies, Xi tells summit in Riyadh
  • He assures that China will continue to support the GCC bloc by building a collective security system

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia hosted the first Riyadh Gulf Cooperation Council-China Summit for Cooperation and Development on Friday.

The event was jointly chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who ws in the Kingdom on a three-day state visit, and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman.

In his opening address, the crown prince said the meeting reflected a mutual desire to enhance Chinese-Gulf cooperation and would establish a historic new phase in relations.

Among the GCC leaders in attendance were King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain; Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sharqi, the ruler of Fujairah and representative of UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan; and Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al-Said, Oman’s deputy prime minister.

Xi said his country will work with the GCC over the next three to five years across five priority areas. (SPA)

The delegation also included Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar; Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the crown prince of Kuwait; and Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, the GCC secretary-general.

Xi said China and the GCC were natural partners due to their shared values and interests.

He added: “For more than 40 years the two sides have written impressive chapters of solidarity, support, and joint cooperation.

“China enjoys a wide consumer market and an integrated industrial system, while the Gulf side is characterized by rich energy resources and prosperous development to diversify the economy.

“The two sides are natural partners for cooperation and understanding as both sides, the Chinese and Gulf, belong to an Eastern civilization with similar cultural values and peoples who understand and converse with each other and share in good times and bad.”

One of the first areas of cooperation to be discussed was the approval of the joint 2023-27 action plan to strengthen the existing strategic partnership between the Gulf countries and China in economic, political, and cultural fields.

The volume of trade between the GCC states and China reached $228.9 billion in 2021 — a big leap from the $148.2 billion recorded in the previous year.

Leaders stressed the importance of continuing to develop cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, investment, finance, industry, advanced technology and space, along with the need to complete free trade negotiations as soon as possible.

The need for greater links in the fields of culture, education, tourism, media, and sport was also discussed.

Xi added: “In order to be partners in the pursuit of development, we must strengthen the harmonization between our strategies, activate the advantages of integration and generate an impetus for development.”

Xi said his country will work with the GCC over the next three to five years across five priority areas, including energy, investment, the digital economy, space, and cooperation in culture and language, with plans to teach the Chinese language in 300 schools and universities.

He said he wants to work with the Gulf to import natural gas and enhance cooperation in the fields of upstream recycling, engineering services, storage and refining of oil and gas, and to make full use of the Shanghai Petroleum and Natural Gas Exchange as a platform for oil.

Xi said: “China will also enhance cooperation in the field of clean and carbon-reduced energy technologies, such as hydrogen energy, energy storage, and smart electrical networks, and enhance cooperation in consolidating the production of equipment related to new energy.”

He expressed his desire to establish a Chinese-Gulf forum for the sound uses of nuclear energy, and a center of excellence for nuclear security to train 300 qualified specialists in the peaceful uses of the power source for the GCC countries.

The event was jointly chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who ws in the Kingdom on a three-day state visit, and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

Xi highlighted the potential for cooperation in space technology, giving Arab and Chinese students and specialists the chance to work together.

“Chinese foreign relations are distinguished by a long history and a promising future,” he said.

Other topics covered during the summit were security and stability, and the priority of restoring international peace through mutual respect and cooperation.

Xi said: “To be partners to improve security, China will continue its unwavering support for the GCC countries in maintaining their security, and support the countries of the region to resolve differences through dialogue, consultation and building a collective security system in the Gulf.

“China welcomes the GCC countries to participate in the global security initiative in order to maintain peace and stability in the region with joint efforts, and to be partners for the advancement of civilization.

“Then we must strengthen the rapprochement among our peoples, diversify human and cultural communication, benefit from the distinguished cultural fruits on both sides, and strengthen the jewel of Eastern civilization, which provides a positive contribution to the development and progress of human civilization.”

Bahrain’s King Hamad expressed his gratitude to King Salman for his invitation to participate in the summit.

He said it reflected “the keenness of the GCC countries, brotherly Arab countries, and the friendly People’s Republic of China to intensify cooperation and joint coordination in various fields, for the benefit and good of our countries and the whole world.”

Al-Hajraf said President Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia represented an important opportunity to address issues of common interest, build on countries’ relations, and enhance cooperation in energy, investment, the economy, and development.


Putin says Russia could adopt US preemptive strike concept

Updated 09 December 2022

Putin says Russia could adopt US preemptive strike concept

  • "We are just thinking about it. They weren’t shy to openly talk about it during the past years,” Putin said
  • For years, the Kremlin has expressed concern about US efforts to develop the so-called Conventional Prompt Global Strike capability

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Moscow could adopt what he described as a US concept of using preemptive military strikes, noting it has the weapons to do the job, in a blunt statement amid rising Russia-NATO tensions over Ukraine.
“We are just thinking about it. They weren’t shy to openly talk about it during the past years,” Putin said, referring to the US policy, as he attended a summit in Kyrgyzstan of a Moscow-dominated economic alliance of ex-Soviet nations.
For years, the Kremlin has expressed concern about US efforts to develop the so-called Conventional Prompt Global Strike capability that envisions hitting an adversary’s strategic targets with precision-guided conventional weapons anywhere in the world within one hour.
“Speaking about a disarming strike, maybe it’s worth thinking about adopting the ideas developed by our US counterparts, their ideas of ensuring their security,” Putin said with a thin smile, noting that such a preemptive strike was intended to knock out command facilities.
He claimed that Russia already has commissioned hypersonic weapons capable of carrying out such a strike, while the US hasn’t yet deployed them. He also claimed that Russia now has cruise missiles that surpass their US equivalents.
While Putin appeared to refer to conventional precision-guided weapons when he talked about possibly mimicking the US strategy, he specifically noted that the US hasn’t ruled out the first use of nuclear weapons.
“If the potential adversary believes that it can use the theory of a preemptive strike and we don’t, it makes us think about the threats posed by such ideas in other countries’ defensive posture,” he said.
In Washington, advisers to President Joe Biden viewed Putin’s comments as “saber-rattling” and another veiled warning that he could deploy a tactical nuclear weapon, according to a US official who was not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of the anonymity.
The official noted that Russian military doctrine has long stated that Moscow reserves the right to first use of a nuclear weapon in response to large scale military aggression.
John Erath, senior policy director for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, also viewed Putin’s statement as yet another attempt to raise the nuclear threat.
“He doesn’t quite say we’re going to launch nuclear weapons, but he wants the dialogue in the US and Europe to be, ‘The longer this war goes on, the greater the threat of nuclear weapons might be used,’” Erath said.
Putin was asked Wednesday at a Kremlin conference whether Russia could commit to forswearing a first strike and responded that such an obligation might prevent Russia from tapping its nuclear arsenal even if it came under a nuclear attack.
“If it doesn’t use it first under any circumstances, it means that it won’t be the second to use it either, because the possibility of using it in case of a nuclear strike on our territory will be sharply limited,” he responded.
He elaborated on that answer Friday, saying Russia’s nuclear doctrine is based on the “launch on warning” concept, which envisions nuclear weapons’ use in the face of an imminent nuclear attack spotted by its early warning systems.
“When the early warning system receives a signal about a missile attack, we launch hundreds of missiles that are impossible to stop,” he said, smiling. “Enemy missile warheads would inevitably reach the territory of the Russian Federation. But nothing would be left of the enemy too, because it’s impossible to intercept hundreds of missiles. And this, of course, is a factor of deterrence.”
Russia’s nuclear doctrine states the country can use nuclear weapons if it comes under a nuclear strike or if it faces an attack with conventional weapons that threatens “the very existence” of the Russian state.
Since sending Russian troops into Ukraine in February, Putin has repeatedly said that Moscow was ready to use “all available means” to protect its territory and has rejected Western criticism of nuclear saber-rattling.
“I understand that ever since nuclear weapons, the weapons of mass destruction have appeared, all people — the entirety of humankind — have been worried what will happen to the planet and all of us,” he said.
At a ceremony Friday at US Strategic Command, which has responsibility for the nation’s nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Putin’s repeated threats were irresponsible.
“As the Kremlin continues its cruel and unprovoked war of choice against Ukraine, the whole world has seen Putin engage and deeply irresponsible nuclear saber-rattling So make no mistake, nuclear powers have a profound responsibility to avoid provocative behavior and to lower the risk of proliferation and to prevent escalation and nuclear war.”