China’s Xi looks to strengthen Vietnam ties after Biden visit

China’s Xi looks to strengthen Vietnam ties after Biden visit
Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit comes hot on the heels of US President Joe Biden’s stopover in Hanoi in September, when he sought to shore up support against Beijing’s growing influence in the region. (AP)
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Updated 10 December 2023
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China’s Xi looks to strengthen Vietnam ties after Biden visit

China’s Xi looks to strengthen Vietnam ties after Biden visit
  • China and Vietnam have a border in common, as well as close economic ties and ruling communist parties, but Xi’s two-day trip will be his first visit to the country in six years
  • Like the United States, Vietnam has concerns about its neighbor’s growing assertiveness in the contested South China Se

HANOI: China’s President Xi Jinping will arrive in Vietnam on Tuesday on a mission to strengthen relations, just months after Washington and Hanoi upgraded their diplomatic ties.
China and Vietnam have a border in common, as well as close economic ties and ruling communist parties, but Xi’s two-day trip will be his first visit to the country in six years.
It comes hot on the heels of US President Joe Biden’s stopover in Hanoi in September, when he sought to shore up support against Beijing’s growing influence in the region.
“From China’s perspective, the visit is to emphasize that it has not lost Vietnam to the rival camp,” said Huong Le Thu, Deputy Director of the Asia Program at the International Crisis Group.
“For Vietnam, it represents its successful ‘bamboo diplomacy’, in which it is able to maneuver between the competing great powers without being forced to take one side over another,” she told AFP.
After an official welcome at the presidential palace on Tuesday, Xi will hold talks with Nguyen Phu Trong, the leader of Vietnam’s ruling communist party.
On Wednesday, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the mausoleum of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, before Xi meets Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and President Vo Van Thuong.
Vietnam and China already share a comprehensive strategic partnership, Vietnam’s highest diplomatic status. Hanoi and Washington upgraded to that same level in September.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that the visit would involve discussions on “bringing China-Vietnam relations to a higher position.”
Items on the agenda include “politics, security, practical cooperation, the formation of public opinion, multilateral issues and maritime issues,” said Wang.

Like the United States, Vietnam has concerns about its neighbor’s growing assertiveness in the contested South China Sea.
China upset several ASEAN members, including Hanoi, with its September 1 release of a new official map, showing sovereignty over almost the entire resource-rich waterway.
The issue of maritime borders is a sensitive issue for Hanoi, which in July banned the “Barbie” movie from being shown domestically due to a brief appearance of a map that included a depiction of the nine-dash line used in official Chinese maps of the region.
Political researcher Nguyen Khac Giang told AFP that Xi’s visit presented an opportunity for Beijing to draw Vietnam closer, possibly through invoking the Xi-era foreign policy concept of the ‘Community of Common Destiny’.
The loosely defined phrase refers to a vision of future cooperation on economic, security and political issues.
“While Vietnam may remain cautious about joining China-led political initiatives, we can expect to see further progress in economic cooperation, especially in infrastructure development and green energy transitions,” he said.
Vietnamese state-controlled media reported last month that China Rare Earth Group Co. was looking for opportunities to work together with Vietnam’s mining giant Vinacomin.
It comes after the United States and Vietnam in September agreed to cooperate to help Hanoi quantify and develop its rare earth resources.
The United States has said Vietnam — with the world’s second-largest deposits of rare earths after China — has a key role to play as it looks to source less from China after supply chain shocks rocked the global economy in recent years.
 


Germany arrests a man accused of standing by to carry out attacks for daesh

Germany arrests a man accused of standing by to carry out attacks for daesh
Updated 4 sec ago
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Germany arrests a man accused of standing by to carry out attacks for daesh

Germany arrests a man accused of standing by to carry out attacks for daesh
BERLIN: An Iraqi man who is accused of standing by to carry out attacks for Daesh after he arrived in Germany in 2022 has been arrested, prosecutors said Thursday.
The suspect, identified only as Mahmoud A. in line with German privacy rules, was arrested on Wednesday in Esslingen, near Stuttgart in southwestern Germany, federal prosecutors said in a statement. A judge ordered him to be kept in custody on suspicion of membership in a foreign terrorist organization pending a possible indictment.
He is accused of joining Daesh in Iraq in or before May 2016 and fighting for the extremist group.
Prosecutors said that Mahmoud A. arrived in Germany in October 2022 and stood by to carry out attacks on behalf of Daesh. They didn’t specify whether any specific attacks were ever planned.

UK’s Sunak faces call for election date betting probe

UK’s Sunak faces call for election date betting probe
Updated 8 min 35 sec ago
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UK’s Sunak faces call for election date betting probe

UK’s Sunak faces call for election date betting probe
  • London’s Metropolitan Police said it was told by the Gambling Commission that a close protection officer was being investigated over the alleged bets

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faced calls on Thursday to launch an inquiry after a member of his security detail was arrested for allegedly betting on the timing of the general election.
London’s Metropolitan Police said it was told by the Gambling Commission that a close protection officer was being investigated over the alleged bets.
The regulator had already been looking into claims that Conservative party candidate Craig Williams, who served as Sunak’s ministerial aide, placed a bet on when the election would be held.
A second candidate from Sunak’s party, Laura Saunders, is now also under investigation about an alleged bet on the date of the poll, the BBC reported on Wednesday evening.
Saunders is married to the Tories’ director of campaigns, the broadcaster added.
The Conservative party confirmed that the commission had contacted it about “a small number of individuals,” without commenting further.
Senior minister Michael Gove told the BBC Thursday he could not comment on the specific allegations but said the “broad principle” of using inside information to place bets was “reprehensible.”
The deputy leader of the smaller opposition Liberal Democrats, Daisy Cooper, urged Sunak to order an inquiry.
“This stinks of yet more sleaze, and answers are needed. An inquiry is needed to understand who knew what and when,” she added.


Sunak announced that a general election would be held on July 4, taking his own party by surprise as he still had six months to call a vote.
The Tories are expected to be dumped out of office after 14 years in office, with polls consistently putting the main opposition Labour party some 20 points ahead.
Two polls published on Wednesday predicted a record win for Labour, eclipsing even the landslide win for former leader Tony Blair in 1997, and a historic drubbing for the Tories.
Pollsters YouGov said the Conservatives — the party of Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill — could slump to their “lowest seat tally in the party’s almost 200-year history.”
As well as criticism of Sunak’s decision to go early, the Tory campaign has been widely criticized for a series of gaffes, including a photocall in Belfast near where the doomed Titanic was built.
Sunak’s own already dire personal ratings were also hit after he left an international event to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day early.
The Met said the officer, a member of the force’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Command, was no longer on operational duties.
The officer was taken into custody on Monday on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, then released on bail pending further inquiries.
A referral has been made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, the watchdog confirmed.
The allegations against Williams came to light last week. He is alleged to have placed a £100 ($127) bet on a July date for the election three days before Sunak called the vote.
Sunak and other party leaders, including Labour’s Keir Starmer, take part in another pre-election television grilling later on Thursday.


EU states agree on 14th sanctions package against Russia, diplomats say

EU states agree on 14th sanctions package against Russia, diplomats say
Updated 10 min 11 sec ago
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EU states agree on 14th sanctions package against Russia, diplomats say

EU states agree on 14th sanctions package against Russia, diplomats say
  • Europe is still buying Russian gas itself, and trans-shipments via EU ports to Asia represent only around 10 percent of total Russian LNG exports

BRUSSELS: European Union countries agreed on a 14th package of sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine, diplomats said on Thursday, including a ban on re-exports of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) in EU waters.
Belgium, which holds the rotating EU presidency until July 1, said on the X platform that the package “maximizes the impact of existing sanctions by closing loopholes.”
Countries debated the new measures for over a month and ultimately watered down one of the Commission’s proposals, aimed at preventing even more circumvention, at Germany’s prompting.
The dropped measure would have forced subsidiaries of EU companies in third countries to contractually prohibit the re-exports of their goods to Russia. The EU is keen to stop the flow of dual-use technology such as washing machine chips that could be used by Russia for military purposes.
An EU diplomat said Germany had asked for an impact assessment, and the measure could be included at a later date.
The ban on trans-shipments is the first restriction the bloc has applied to LNG. However, gas market experts say the measure will have little impact as Europe is still buying Russian gas itself, and trans-shipments via EU ports to Asia represent only around 10 percent of total Russian LNG exports.
The package also tightens measures against the shadow fleet moving Russian oil outside the price cap on Russian crude set by the Group of Seven (G7) nations. EU countries added tankers to the list of sanctioned entities as well as at least two Russian-owned ships moving military equipment from North Korea, diplomats said.
Moscow and Pyongyang have grown closer since Russia’s February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This week, the two countries agreed to provide immediate military assistance if either faces armed aggression in a pact reached after Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Pyongyang.
Overall, 47 new entities and 69 individuals were added to the EU sanctions list, bringing the total to 2,200. The package is expected to be formally approved when EU foreign ministers meet on Monday, diplomats said. (Reporting by Julia Payne; editing by Kevin Liffey and Mark Heinrich)


Malaysian leader Anwar says China a ‘true friend’ and not to be feared as Premier Li ends visit

Malaysian leader Anwar says China a ‘true friend’ and not to be feared as Premier Li ends visit
Updated 12 min 57 sec ago
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Malaysian leader Anwar says China a ‘true friend’ and not to be feared as Premier Li ends visit

Malaysian leader Anwar says China a ‘true friend’ and not to be feared as Premier Li ends visit
  • His words will be welcomed by China’s leadership, which finds itself increasingly at odds with countries from the Philippines to Japan as it grows as a regional power in Asia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday rejected the notion that China’s dominance is to be feared, calling China a “true friend” at the end of Premier Li Qiang’s visit to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between their countries.
While the leaders raised some contentious bilateral issues, Anwar said they discussed them as “equal partners, as trusted friends.” He didn’t give details but was likely referring to the prickly issue of overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.
“People say, well, Malaysia is a growing economy. Don’t let China abuse its privilege and extort from the country. I said no. To the contrary, we want to benefit from one another, we want to learn from one another and we want to profit from this engagement,” Anwar told some 200 business leaders at a luncheon attended by Li.
His words will be welcomed by China’s leadership, which finds itself increasingly at odds with countries from the Philippines to Japan as it grows as a regional power in Asia. During his visit, Li held up what he called the “friendship” between China and Malaysia as a positive example for country-to-country relations in the region.
Anwar said he rebuked the “incessant propaganda that we should cast aspersions and fear the dominance of China economically, militarily, technologically.”
“We do not. We in Malaysia, having a neutral stance, have the resolve to work with all countries and with China,” he said. “We see Premier Li Qiang as a friend that would work together with us.”
Li, who is China’s No. 2 leader after President Xi Jinping, was the first Chinese premier to visit Malaysia since 2015. He flew in for a three-day visit on Tuesday on the last leg of a regional tour. Li was also the first Chinese premier to visit New Zealand and then Australia in seven years.
The two leaders on Wednesday agreed that China and other claimant countries in Southeast Asia should tackle the South China Sea dispute “independently and properly” through dialogue and cooperation, and via bilateral settlement.
No details were given but the statement came amid concerns the dispute could escalate tensions between the US and China. The US renewed a warning Tuesday that it is obligated to defend treaty ally Philippines, after Chinese forces seized two Philippine boats delivering food and supplies to a military outpost in a disputed shoal and injured several Filipino navy personnel.
Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan all dispute Beijing’s claims to almost the entire South China Sea. Malaysia’s government prefers diplomatic channels and rarely criticizes Beijing publicly, even though Chinese coast guard ships have sailed near Malaysia’s waters. This is partly to protect economic ties as China has been Malaysia’s top trading partner since 2009. Bilateral trade surged to $98.8 billion last year, accounting for 17 percent of Malaysia’s global trade.
At the luncheon, Li urged businesses to expand cooperation in emerging fields such as green development, digital economy and artificial intelligence.
“The journey of China and Malaysia over the past 50 years... is like an expedition where two people have joined hands and waded through mountains and rivers, and won a milestone full of achievements. It also marks the official beginning of the next journey full of hope,” Li said.
Li was given a red carpet ceremonial send-off and an honor guard as he departed for home later Thursday.
The two countries renewed a five-year trade and economic cooperation pact on Wednesday and inked a rash of pacts to cooperate in various sectors.
The Trade Ministry said 11 more memorandums were signed between Malaysian and Chinese entities on Thursday that could bring in potential investment of 13.2 billion ringgit ($2.8 billion). These included proposed collaborations in high value-added sector such as oil and gas, energy, education, agriculture, automotive and utility services, it said in a statement.
A joint statement by the two governments Thursday said China will extend visa-free travel for Malaysian tourists until end-2025, while Malaysia will reciprocate with a longer period until end-2026.
It said the two countries will also jointly nominate the lion dance, a cultural dance performed during Lunar New Year and festivals, to be on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. About a quarter of Malaysia’s 33 million people are ethnic Chinese.


Russian air strike causes more damage to Ukraine’s power grid

Russian air strike causes more damage to Ukraine’s power grid
Updated 20 June 2024
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Russian air strike causes more damage to Ukraine’s power grid

Russian air strike causes more damage to Ukraine’s power grid
  • The attacks have knocked out half Ukraine’s energy generating capacity since March
  • Ukrainian air force said it shot down five out of nine missiles and all 27 drones launched by Russia over 10 Ukrainian regions

KYIV: Russia launched a new barrage of missiles and drones at Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday, causing “significant” damage to a thermal power plant and maintaining pressure on the electricity grid, Ukrainian officials said.
The attack on energy infrastructure in four regions damaged equipment, wounded seven workers and cut off electricity to more than 218,000 consumers, the energy ministry said.
The attacks have knocked out half Ukraine’s energy generating capacity since March and forced rolling blackouts, Kyiv says. Moscow says energy facilities are a legitimate military target and that some of the strikes were retaliation for Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory.
Officials in Kyiv have for months been appealing to Ukraine’s allies to supply more air defenses against the air strikes carried out by Russia throughout the nearly 28-month-old full-scale invasion.
The Ukrainian air force said it shot down five out of nine missiles and all 27 drones launched by Russia over 10 Ukrainian regions during Thursday’s attack.
Despite the military’s readout, private power company DTEK said one of its thermal power plants suffered significant damage from the drone attack. The strikes, it said, amounted to the seventh large-scale attack on its infrastructure since March 22.
National grid operator Ukrenergo said the attack would lead to an increase in the quantity of scheduled blackouts on Thursday.
The military said the attack mostly targeted eastern Ukraine and in particular the Dnipropetrovsk region.
The region’s governor said five drones and four missiles were shot down over the region. Three men were wounded in the attack, which also damaged seven homes, he said.
Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, said air defenses shot down all incoming aerial targets on their approach to the capital, and no damage or injuries were reported in the city.
Air defenses also downed four drones over the central region of Vinnytsia, where debris damaged a critical infrastructure object, the regional governor said without identifying it.