US, Chinese foreign ministers hold first talks since October

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, gestures as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on July 9, 2022. (Pool Photo via AP)
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Updated 09 July 2022

US, Chinese foreign ministers hold first talks since October

  • Meeting aimed at keeping the difficult US-China ties stable and preventing it from veering inadvertently into conflict
  • Despite their strategic rivalry, the world’s two largest economies remain major trading partners

NUSA DUA, Indonesia: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met on Saturday for the first in-person talks since October after attending a G20 summit where the top US diplomat led efforts to pressure Russia over its war in Ukraine.
US officials say Blinken’s meeting with Wang in Bali, Indonesia, including a morning session of talks and a working lunch, is aimed at keeping the difficult US relationship with China stable and preventing it from veering inadvertently into conflict.
“There is no substitute for face to face ... diplomacy, and in a relationship as complex and consequential as the one between the United States and China there is a lot to talk about,” Blinken told reporters at the beginning of the meeting.
“We very much look forward to a productive and constructive conversation,” he said.
Blinken is expected to repeat warnings to China not to support Russia’s war in Ukraine and the two sides will address contentious issues that include Taiwan, China’s extensive South China Sea claims, its expansion of influence in the Pacific, human rights, and trade tariffs.
However, both sides share an interest in keeping the relationship stable and Blinken and US officials say President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to speak again in coming weeks, something Saturday’s meeting is likely to address.
“China and the United States are two major countries, so it is necessary for the two countries to maintain normal exchanges,” Wang told reporters.
“At the same time, we do need to talk together to ensure that this relationship will continue to move forward along the right track,” Wang said.
Daniel Russel, a top US diplomat for East Asia under former President Barack Obama who has close contact with Biden administration officials, said he believed a key aim for the meeting would be to explore the possibility of an in-person meeting between Biden and Xi, their first as leaders, possibly on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Bali in November.
The United States calls China its main strategic rival and is concerned it might one day attempt to take over the self-ruled democratic island of Taiwan, just as Russia attacked Ukraine.
The top US diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, said on Tuesday he expected a “candid” exchange with Wang and said it would be another opportunity “to convey our expectations about what we would expect China to do and not to do in the context of Ukraine.”
Shortly before Russia’s Feb. 24 Ukraine invasion, Beijing and Moscow announced a “no limits” partnership. But US officials have said they have not seen China evade tough US-led sanctions on Russia or provide it with military equipment.
However, China has declined to condemn Russia’s actions and it has criticized the sweeping sanctions.
US officials have warned of consequences, including sanctions, should China start offering material support for Russia’s war effort, which it calls a “special military operation” to degrade the Ukrainian military though Kyiv counters that it is an imperial-style land grab.
Despite their strategic rivalry, the world’s two largest economies remain major trading partners and Biden has been considering scrapping tariffs on a range of Chinese goods to curb surging US inflation before the November midterm elections, with control of Congress in focus. 


Indonesian president Joko Widodo to order stadium audit to find ‘root’ of disaster

Updated 2 sec ago

Indonesian president Joko Widodo to order stadium audit to find ‘root’ of disaster

  • Joko Widodo: ‘I will order the public works minister to audit all stadiums used for the (football) league’
MALANG, Indonesia: Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Wednesday that he would order an audit of all football stadiums, vowing to find the “root” cause of one of the deadliest disasters in the sport’s history.
“I want to know the root of the problem that caused this tragedy so that we can get the best solution. I will order the public works minister to audit all stadiums used for the (football) league,” he said outside a hospital during a visit to the city where a stadium stampede killed at least 131 people Saturday.
Widodo said that football’s world governing body FIFA may help address management of the sport in Indonesia, having discussed the issue with FIFA President Gianni Infantino after the deadly stampede.

Vladimir Putin signs laws annexing four Ukrainian regions

Updated 6 min 18 sec ago

Vladimir Putin signs laws annexing four Ukrainian regions

  • Move finalizes the annexation carried out in defiance of international law

KYIV: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed laws absorbing four Ukrainian regions into Russia, a move that finalizes the annexation carried out in defiance of international law.
Earlier this week, both houses of the Russian parliament ratified treaties making the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions part of Russia. The formalities followed Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” in the four regions that Ukraine and the West have rejected as a sham.


One injured in attack by Iran-made drones near Kyiv: governor

Updated 11 min 42 sec ago

One injured in attack by Iran-made drones near Kyiv: governor

KYIV: One person was injured in an attack with Iranian-made drones on the town of Bila Tserkva southwest of Kyiv, the region’s governor said Wednesday.
“During the night, the enemy carried out strikes with Shahed-136 type kamikaze drones against Bila Tserkva,” governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on social media, adding that the attack left one person injured and damaged infrastructure.


South Korea, US fire missiles into the sea to protest ‘reckless’ North Korea test

Updated 05 October 2022

South Korea, US fire missiles into the sea to protest ‘reckless’ North Korea test

  • The UN Security Council will meet to discuss North Korea at the request of the United States
  • It was the first North Korean missile to follow a trajectory over Japan since 2017

SEOUL: South Korea and the US military conducted missile drills in response to North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan, as the United Nations Security Council prepares to meet over what was Pyongyang’s longest-range test.

Nuclear-armed North Korea test-fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) farther than ever before on Tuesday, sending it soaring over Japan for the first time in five years and prompting a warning for residents there to take cover.

South Korean and American troops fired a volley of missiles into the sea in response, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday, and the allies earlier staged a bombing drill with fighter jets in the Yellow Sea.

The military separately confirmed that a South Korean Hyunmoo-2 missile failed shortly after launch and crashed during the drill, but that no one was hurt.

South Korea’s military said that the missile carried a warhead but that it did not explode, and apologized for causing residents to worry.

The White House National Security Council called North Korea’s latest test “dangerous and reckless” and the US military and its allies have stepped up displays of force.

The USS Ronald Reagan, an American aircraft carrier that made its first stop in South Korea last month for the first time in years, will be deployed between Korea and Japan in what the South Korean military called a “highly unusual” move designed to show the allies’ resolve to respond to any threats from North Korea.

US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned North Korea’s test in the “strongest terms,” the European Union called it a “reckless and deliberately provocative action,” and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the launch and said it was a violation of Security Council resolutions.

The UN Security Council will meet on Wednesday to discuss North Korea at the request of the United States, despite China and Russia telling council counterparts they were opposed to an open meeting of 15-member body. They argued that the council’s reaction should be conducive to easing the situation on the Korean Peninsula, diplomats said.

It was the first North Korean missile to follow a trajectory over Japan since 2017, and its estimated 4,600km flight was the longest for a North Korean test, which are usually “lofted” into space to avoid flying over neighboring countries.

Analysts and security officials said it may have been a variant of the Hwasong-12 IRBM, which North Korea unveiled in 2017 as part of what it said was a plan to strike US military bases in Guam.

Neither North Korea’s government nor its state media have reported on the launch or disclosed what type of missile was used.

The flight has increased concerns that North Korea may soon conduct an expected nuclear test, which would be the first since 2017.

South Korea’s defense minister, Lee Jong-sup, told parliament North Korea had completed preparations for a test and might use a smaller weapon meant for operational use, or a big device with a higher yield than in previous tests.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called the test “reckless” and said it would bring a decisive response from his country, its allies and the international community.

The launch was a “reckless and deliberately provocative action” that violated UN security council resolutions, a European Union spokesperson said.


US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer

Updated 04 October 2022

US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer

  • Police hauled Robert Gilman off a train in Voronezh in January, while he was traveling from the southern city of Sochi to Moscow, after complaints from fellow passengers about his behavior
  • Russia has sentenced several US citizens to lengthy prison terms in recent years, though Gilman’s case has attracted less attention than most

LONDON: Former US marine Robert Gilman was sentenced to 4-1/2 years in a Russian penal colony on Tuesday for attacking a police officer while drunk, Russian news agencies reported.
Police hauled Gilman off a train in Voronezh in January, while he was traveling from the southern city of Sochi to Moscow, after complaints from fellow passengers about his behavior, the agencies reported, citing the prosecution.
While in custody, Gilman was accused of kicking out at a police officer, leaving him with bruises.
Gilman, whose lawyers told the TASS news agency he had come to Russia to study and obtain citizenship, told the court in Voronezh that he did not remember the incident but had “apologized to Russia” and to the police officer.
After being found guilty, Gilman said the four-and-a-half year sentence requested by the prosecution was too strict.
Gilman’s lawyer Valeriy Ivannikov told reporters he intended to appeal and would ask the United States to seek a prisoner exchange.
US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Washington was aware of the decision but said he could not give further details citing privacy considerations.
“We continue to insist that the Russian Federation allow consistent, timely consular access to all (detained) US citizens, and we urge the Russian government to ensure fair treatment to all US citizens detained in Russia,” Patel said, declining to say whether consular access had been granted in Gilman’s case.
Russia has sentenced several US citizens to lengthy prison terms in recent years, though Gilman’s case has attracted less attention than most.
WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced in August to nine years in prison after being found in possession of cannabis oil vape cartridges.
Paul Whelan, another ex-marine who also holds Canadian, Irish and British citizenship, is serving 16 years in prison on espionage charges, which he denies.
But in April, former marine Trevor Reed, who was serving nine years after being found guilty of violence against a police officer, was freed in a prisoner exchange.
Russian officials have said they are in talks with Washington about possible new prisoner exchanges. Media reports say they could involve convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, serving a 25-year sentence in the United States, being released back to Russia.