Senior US official to visit Lithuania in show of support over Chinese ‘coercion’

Taiwanese and Lithuanian flags are displayed at the Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Jan. 20, 2022. (REUTERS/File Photo)
Taiwanese and Lithuanian flags are displayed at the Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Jan. 20, 2022. (REUTERS/File Photo)
Short Url
Updated 29 January 2022

Senior US official to visit Lithuania in show of support over Chinese ‘coercion’

Senior US official to visit Lithuania in show of support over Chinese ‘coercion’
  • China downgraded its diplomatic ties with Lithuania after Taiwan opened a representative office in Vilnius last year

WASHINGTON: A senior US official will visit Lithuania next week to discuss enhancing economic cooperation with the small Baltic nation, which has faced pressure from China for boosting ties with Taiwan.
Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Jose Fernandez will be in Vilnius from Sunday to Tuesday, and in Brussels from Wednesday to Friday, where he will also discuss efforts to counter economic “coercion” with EU officials, the State Department said in a statement.
In Vilnius, he will discuss bilateral economic cooperation, and US “strong support for Lithuania in the face of political pressure and economic coercion from the People’s Republic of China,” the statement said.
Fernandez will be accompanied by US Export-Import Bank officials to discuss implementation of a $600 million memorandum of understanding to expand opportunities for US exporters and Lithuanian buyers in areas such as high-tech manufacturing, business services and renewable energy, according to the statement.
In Brussels, Fernandez will discuss transatlantic trade and investment through the US-EU Trade and Technology Council, the statement said.
The United States, which is seeking to push back against growing Chinese influence worldwide, has backed Lithuania in its dispute with China over Taiwan, a self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own.
China downgraded its diplomatic relationship with Lithuania and pressed multinationals to sever ties with the country after Taiwan opened a representative office in Vilnius last year called the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania, rather than using the word Taipei as is more common.
EU authorities launched a challenge at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Thursday, accusing China of discriminatory trade practices against EU member Lithuania that they say threaten the integrity of the bloc’s single market.
Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday it hopes its trade dispute with China will be solved with consultations between China and the EU.
Commenting on the WTO case, Taiwan’s Cabinet’s Office of Trade Negotiations said late Friday it “fully supports” the EU and Lithuania and opposes China’s “inappropriate economic coercion.”
“Our country will work with other like-minded partners such as Lithuania and the EU to prevent China from using coercive economic and diplomatic measures, to maintain a rules-based international trading system,” it added in a statement.


Roadside bomb kills 7 in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif

Roadside bomb kills 7 in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif
Updated 54 min 42 sec ago

Roadside bomb kills 7 in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif

Roadside bomb kills 7 in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif
  • Tuesday’s blast happened near Sayed Abad Square

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan: A roadside bomb killed seven petroleum company employees aboard a bus in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, a provincial police spokesman said.
“The bomb was placed in a cart by the roadside. It was detonated as the bus arrived,” said Asif Waziri, of the Balkh police department in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Although the Taliban claim to have improved security across the nation since storming back to power in August last year, there have been scores of bomb blasts and attacks — many claimed by the local chapter of the Daesh group.
At least 19 people were killed and 24 others wounded earlier this month by a blast at a madrassa in Aybak, southeast of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Waziri told AFP Tuesday’s blast happened around 7:00 am (0230 GMT) near Sayed Abad Square in the city.
He said six people were injured in the blast.
Further details were not immediately available, and there has been no claim of responsibility.


Beijing no longer requires COVID test results to enter supermarkets, buildings

Beijing no longer requires COVID test results to enter supermarkets, buildings
Updated 06 December 2022

Beijing no longer requires COVID test results to enter supermarkets, buildings

Beijing no longer requires COVID test results to enter supermarkets, buildings

BEIJING: China’s capital Beijing no longer requires people that enter supermarkets and commercial buildings to show negative COVID-19 tests on their mobile phones, the city government said in a statement on Tuesday.
However, the city still requires negative test results to enter Internet cafes, schools, bars, KTV lounges, indoor gyms and elderly care institutions.

 


North Korea orders new artillery firings over South’s drills

People watch a report on North Korea's artillery firings, at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea 05 December 2022. (EPA)
People watch a report on North Korea's artillery firings, at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea 05 December 2022. (EPA)
Updated 06 December 2022

North Korea orders new artillery firings over South’s drills

People watch a report on North Korea's artillery firings, at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea 05 December 2022. (EPA)
  • Some of the shells landed in a buffer zone near the sea border
  • South Korea and the United States have also stepped up military drills this year

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea’s military says it has ordered frontline units to conduct artillery firings into the sea for the second consecutive day in a tit-for-tat response to South Korean live-fire drills in an inland border region.
The statement by the North Korean People’s Army’s General Staff came a day after the North fired about 130 artillery rounds into waters near its western and eastern sea boundaries with South Korea in the latest military action raising tensions between the rivals. An unidentified North Korean military spokesperson said the planned artillery firings Tuesday were meant as a warning to the South after the North detected signs of South Korean artillery exercises in the border region.
The South Korean army is conducting live-fire exercises involving multiple rocket launching systems and howitzers in two separate testing grounds in the Cheorwon region, which began on Monday and continues through Wednesday.
North Korea’s military said Monday that it instructed its western and eastern coastal units to fire artillery as a warning after it detected dozens of South Korean projectiles flying southeast from the Cheorwon region.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said those North Korean shells fired fell within the northern side of buffer zones created under a 2018 inter-Korean agreement to reduce military tensions and urged the North to abide by the agreement.
It was the first time North Korea has fired weapons into the maritime buffer zones since Nov. 3, when around 80 artillery shells landed within North Korea’s side of the zone off its eastern coast.
North Korea has fired dozens of missiles as it increased its weapons demonstrations to a record pace this year, including multiple tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile system potentially capable of reaching deep into the US mainland, and an intermediate-range missile launched over Japan.
North Korea has also conducted a series of short-range launches it described as simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean and US targets in an angry reaction to an expansion of joint US-South Korea military exercises that North Korea views as rehearsals for a potential invasion.
Experts say North Korea hopes to negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength and force the United States to accept it as a nuclear power. South Korean officials have said North Korea might up the ante soon by conducting its first nuclear test since 2017.

 


Ukraine warns of emergency blackouts after more missile hits

A satellite image shows bomber aircrafts at Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, December 4, 2022. (REUTERS)
A satellite image shows bomber aircrafts at Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, December 4, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 December 2022

Ukraine warns of emergency blackouts after more missile hits

A satellite image shows bomber aircrafts at Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, December 4, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • The United States said it would convene a virtual meeting on Thursday with oil and gas executives to discuss how it can support Ukrainian energy infrastructure, according to a letter seen by Reuters
  • Ukraine’s air force said it downed over 60 of more than 70 missiles fired by Russia on Monday

KYIV: Ukraine warned there would be emergency blackouts once again in several regions as it repaired damage from missile attacks it said destroyed homes and knocked out power, while Moscow accused Kyiv of attacking deep inside Russia with drones.
A new Russian missile barrage had been anticipated in Ukraine for days and it took place just as emergency blackouts were due to end, with previous damage repaired.
The strikes, which plunged parts of Ukraine back into freezing darkness with temperatures below zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit), were the latest in weeks of attacks hitting critical infrastructure and cutting off heat and water to many.
At least four people were killed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, adding that most of some 70 missiles were shot down.
“In many regions, there will have to be emergency blackouts,” he said in a late Monday video address. “We will be doing everything to restore stability.”
The United States said it would convene a virtual meeting on Thursday with oil and gas executives to discuss how it can support Ukrainian energy infrastructure, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
Moscow has been hitting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure roughly weekly since early October as it has been forced to retreat on some battlefronts.
ZAPORIZHZHIA REGION CASUALTIES
In the Zaporizhzhia region, at least two people were killed and several houses destroyed, the deputy head of the presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said.
Reuters video showed two bodies covered with blankets lying next to a damaged car in the village of Novosofiivka, some 25 km east of the southern city of Zaporizhzhia.
“Both of my neighbors were killed,” Olha Troshyna 62, said. “They were standing by the car. They were seeing off their son and daughter-in-law.”
Missiles also hit energy plants in the regions of Kyiv and Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, Odesa in the south and Sumy in the north, officials said. Kyiv was one of the regions to be suffering from the most blackouts, according to Zelensky.
Ukraine had only just returned to scheduled power outages from Monday rather than the emergency blackouts it has suffered since widespread Russian strikes on Nov. 23, the worst of the attacks on energy infrastructure.
But Ukraine’s largest private energy provider, DTEK, on Monday reported having to disconnect one of its facilities from the power grid, limiting power and heat supply, in what it said was the 17th Russian attack on one of its sites in the last two months.
Ukraine’s air force said it downed over 60 of more than 70 missiles fired by Russia on Monday.
Russia has said the barrages are designed to degrade Ukraine’s military. Ukraine says they are clearly aimed at civilians and thus constitute a war crime. Moscow denies that.
Russia says it is waging a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an unprovoked war to grab territory from its pro-Western neighbor.
DRONES
Russia’s defense ministry on Monday said Ukrainian drones attacked two air bases at Ryazan and Saratov in south-central Russia, killing three servicemen and wounding four, with two aircraft damaged by pieces of the drones when they were shot down.
Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility for the attacks. If it was behind them, they would be the deepest strikes inside the Russian heartland since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The New York Times, citing a senior Ukrainian official, reported unmanned drones struck two bases hundreds of miles inside Russia. The drones were launched from Ukrainian territory and at least two planes were destroyed at one of the bases and several more were damaged, the newspaper reported.
“The Kyiv regime, in order to disable Russian long-range aircraft, made attempts to strike with Soviet-made unmanned jet aerial vehicles at the military airfields Dyagilevo, in the Ryazan region, and Engels, in the Saratov region,” the Russian defense ministry said.
It said the drones, flying at low altitude, were intercepted by air defenses and shot down. The deaths were reported on the Ryazan base, 185 km (115 miles) southeast of Moscow.
Israeli satellite imaging company ImageSat International shared images it said showed burn marks and objects near a Tu-22M aircraft at the Dyagilevo air base.
The Russian defense ministry called the drone strikes a terrorist act aimed at disrupting its long-range aviation.
Despite that, it said, Russia responded with a “massive strike on the military control system and related objects of the defenses complex, communication centers, energy and military units of Ukraine with high-precision air- and sea-based weapons” in which it said all 17 designated targets were hit.
Kyiv’s forces have demonstrated an increasing ability to hit strategic Russian targets far beyond the 1,100 km-long frontline in southern and eastern Ukraine.
Saratov is at least 600 km from the nearest Ukrainian territory. Russian commentators said on social media that if Ukraine could strike that far inside Russia, it might also be capable of hitting Moscow.
Previous mysterious blasts damaged arms stores and fuel depots in regions near Ukraine and knocked out at least seven warplanes in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for any of the blasts, saying only that they were “karma” for Russia’s invasion.
“If something is launched into other countries’ air space, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to (their) departure point,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted, tongue in cheek, on Monday.

 


Angry protests in Greek city after police shoot Roma boy

Angry protests in Greek city after police shoot Roma boy
Updated 06 December 2022

Angry protests in Greek city after police shoot Roma boy

Angry protests in Greek city after police shoot Roma boy
  • The Greek police department said the youth had tried to ram officers in pursuit on motorbikes in his attempt to evade arrest

THESSALONIKI, Greece: Violent scuffles broke out in Greece’s second largest city on Monday after a Roma teenager was shot by police and left in a critical condition.
The 16-year-old was shot in the head in the early hours of Monday morning after driving a truck away from a petrol station near the port city of Thessaloniki without paying, state TV ERT said.
The Greek police department said the youth had tried to ram officers in pursuit on motorbikes in his attempt to evade arrest.
Protesters burned roadblocks and threw Molotov cocktails at riot police on Monday evening, as well as smashing shop windows in the center of the city.
Police responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
Earlier in the day, protesters and members of the teenager’s family had thrown rocks at riot police outside the hospital where he is receiving treatment, before police responded by firing tear gas.
In a statement police said officers had fired two shots to try and stop him from attempting to hit police motorbikes.
After the shots were fired, the driver had lost control, hit a wall and was “transported to the hospital with serious injuries,” police said.
The officer who fired the shot was arrested and will appear before a prosecutor on Tuesday.
Another Roma youth was killed in 2021 near the port of Piraeus, also in a police pursuit.
The incident also comes a day ahead of youth protests in several cities to mark the 2008 death of a Greek teenager, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was also fatally shot by a police officer.
His death sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests in Greece.