US, Japan show united front on China in Biden’s first summit

US, Japan show united front on China in Biden’s first summit
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Joe Biden meet the press at the Rose Garden of the White House on April 16, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 17 April 2021

US, Japan show united front on China in Biden’s first summit

US, Japan show united front on China in Biden’s first summit
  • ‘We’re going to work together to prove that democracies can still compete and win in the 21st century’

WASHINGTON: The United States and Japan vowed Friday to stand firm together against an assertive China and to step up cooperation on climate change and next-generation technology as President Joe Biden made his first summit a show of alliance unity.
After waiting nearly three months for his first foreign guest due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden told Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that Japan enjoyed the United States’ “iron-clad support” on security issues and beyond.
“We’re going to work together to prove that democracies can still compete and win in the 21st century,” Biden, affectionately calling the Japanese leader “Yoshi,” told a socially distanced news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
A joint statement called for “candid conversations” with China and did not hold back, raising concerns over Beijing’s growing maritime moves, its clampdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and growing tension over Taiwan.
The statement reiterated that the US-Japan Security Treaty covers the Japanese-administered Senkaku islands – one of several areas in the region where Beijing, which calls them the Diaoyu, has increasingly shown its might.
The United States and Japan “recognize the importance of deterrence to maintain peace and stability in the region,” the statement said.
“We oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea,” read one line highlighted by Suga.
The Chinese embassy in the United States hit back on Saturday, expressing “strong concern and firm opposition” to the comments.
“It cannot be more ironic that such an attempt at stoking division and building blocs against other countries is put under the banner of ‘free and open,’” a statement by the embassy said, referring to a US pledge to build a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region.
The matters raised “bear on China’s fundamental interests and allow no interference,” it added.
Biden and Suga also emphasized “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and encouraged “the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” as Beijing steps up air incursions in Taiwan.
While cautiously worded, it was the first time a Japanese leader has joined a US president in a statement on Taiwan since the allies separately switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in the 1970s.
Taiwan is an especially sensitive issue for Beijing, which claims the self-governing democracy.
The forthright statement comes despite Japan’s efforts in recent years not to antagonize China, its top trading partner, including by not joining Western nations in sanctions over human rights.
Suga echoed Biden’s themes as he described the US-Japan alliance as the “foundation of peace and stability” in the region.
“Freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law are the universal values that link our alliance,” Suga said.
In a highly unusual comment by a Japanese leader on the US domestic scene, Suga also voiced concern over a wave of attacks in the United States against people of Asian descent.
Biden’s second in-person summit will take place next month with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, part of the new administration’s strategy of shoring up alliances as it zeroes in on China as America’s most pressing challenge.
On another of his key priorities, Biden said he and Suga agreed on the need for “ambitious” climate commitments and indicated that both nations would soon announce goals by 2030.
Biden will lead a virtual summit next week in hopes of rallying climate pledges amid growing evidence of a planetary crisis as average temperatures hit record highs and natural disasters become more frequent.
Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, promised under the Paris accord to reduce emissions by 26 percent by 2030 but from 2013 levels – a goal that experts say is not bold enough to meet Suga’s goal of a carbon-neutral Japan in 2050.
“We confirmed that Japan and the US will lead global decarbonization,” Suga said.
Biden and Suga said they would step up joint development and testing of fifth-generation Internet – as well as the sixth-generation technologies of the future.
The United States and Japan must “maintain and sharpen our competitive edge” and ensure that “those technologies are governed by shared democratic norms that we both share – norms set by democracies, not by autocracies,” Biden said.
China’s Huawei has taken an early dominant role in 5G, which is becoming a crucial part of the global economy, despite heavy US pressure on the company, which Washington argues poses threats to security and privacy.
A joint statement said the United States had committed $2.5 billion and Japan another $2 billion.
Masashi Adachi, a special adviser to Suga, told reporters that the agreement was more about joint development than fresh funding, pointing to several projects underway in Japan on 5G development.
Suga in September succeeded Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, who was one of the few democratic allies to manage to preserve stable relations with Biden’s volatile predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden and Suga also recommitted to the denuclearization of North Korea and discussed next moves following Trump’s unusually personal diplomacy with the totalitarian state.


Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants
Updated 5 min 23 sec ago

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants
  • Italy’s PM favours EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official told Reuters
  • Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy's coast this year

ROME: Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office denied a media report on Tuesday that Italy was proposing that the European Union should pay Libya to stop migrants leaving its shores for Europe.
Draghi favors the EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official in Draghi’s office told Reuters.
But the official denied a report by La Repubblica newspaper that Draghi wanted to propose at a May 24 summit that the EU make a deal similar to one reached with Ankara in 2016, under which Turkey is entitled to financial aid in exchange for hosting refugees who try to reach Europe via the Balkans.
“At the moment there is no initiative regarding creating a similar deal to what was done with Turkey,” the official said.
“The government’s position is that the EU must pay more attention to the situation in the southern Mediterranean and be ready to offer financial help to all African countries involved in migrant flows.”
Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy’s coast this year, about three times as many as in the same period last year, according to interior ministry data.
More than 2,000 have since Sunday reached the island of Lampedusa, the initial arrival point for many people trying to get to Europe from Africa.
The migrants, arriving on small and perilous boats run by people-traffickers, are being transferred elsewhere in Italy.
The vast majority of African migrants heading for Europe by sea depart from Libya.
In 2019, Rome agreed a plan with other European states to redistribute migrants after they arrived, but the scheme was voluntary and has not provided a stable solution.
On Tuesday, the executive European Commission said it had received no offers from member states to accept migrants from Italy.
The migration issue has fueled the rise of anti-immigration parties across Europe. In Italy, the right-wing League is part of Draghi’s national unity government and wants action.


Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
Updated 42 min ago

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
  • Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags and shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people”
  • Protestors wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight pandemic

MADRID: A few dozen people have gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in the Spanish capital to protest Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians.
Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags. They shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people” and “it’s Palestine, not Israel” in Spanish.
Some held up photos of Palestinians being arrested by Israeli forces. All wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The escalation in the conflict was sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem.


Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
Updated 11 May 2021

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
  • Priority for age groups and medical vulnerability waived in favour of permanent residents of nearly 100 islands
  • Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million

NAXOS, Greece: A vaccination program for Greek islands is being accelerated to cover all local residents by the end of June, the government announced Tuesday ahead of the launch of the tourism season.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a nationwide priority system for age groups and medical vulnerability was being waived for permanent residents of nearly 100 islands.
“This initiative is aimed at supporting local island communities and their economy and it also aspires to send a positive overall message for our tourism,” Mitsotakis said.
Greece is fighting to revive its key tourism sector that was battered by the pandemic in 2020 but its vaccination rates remain below the European Union average and the country has only recently stabilized a surge in cases.
Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million. Many holiday islands have a year-round population of under 10,000, while Crete has the largest with more than 600,000 residents, followed by Evia, Rhodes, Corfu, Lesbos, and Chios. The tourism season will officially start Friday.


Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
Updated 11 May 2021

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
  • Sweden of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217
  • The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks

STOCKHOLM: Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 13,812 new coronavirus cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday.
The figure compared with 14,950 cases during the corresponding period last week.
The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217.
The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.
Sweden’s death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbors’ but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.


At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
Updated 11 May 2021

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
  • RIA Novosti news agency reported that a teenager was detained
  • Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building

MOSCOW: A school shooting erupted Tuesday in the Russian city of Kazan, leaving eight students and one teacher dead, Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing local emergency services.
According to the Interfax news agency, two gunmen opened fire in the school, and one of them — a 17-year-old — has already been apprehended.

“According to preliminary information, the second attacker in the school in Kazan who remained in the building was killed,” the TASS state news agency reported, citing a law enforcement source.
Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building. Authorities said additional security measures have been put into place in all schools in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, roughly 700 kilometers (430 miles) east of Moscow.
While school shootings are relatively rare in Russia, there have been several violent attacks on schools in recent years, mostly carried out by students.