Romania’s Iohannis to make NATO statement as Dutch PM seen taking over

Romania’s Iohannis to make NATO statement as Dutch PM seen taking over
Romania's President Klaus Iohannis plans to make an announcement Thursday about his bid to become NATO chief. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 19 June 2024
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Romania’s Iohannis to make NATO statement as Dutch PM seen taking over

Romania’s Iohannis to make NATO statement as Dutch PM seen taking over
  • Iohannis’s withdrawal would clear the way for the Dutch prime minister to succeed Jens Stoltenberg
  • “About NATO, more tomorrow. I will present these issues first to the CSAT (Supreme Council of National Defense), then to the public,” Iohannis said

BUCHAREST: Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis plans to make an announcement Thursday about his bid to become NATO chief, after his rival candidate Mark Rutte of the Netherlands got backing from EU holdout Hungary.
Iohannis’s withdrawal would clear the way for the Dutch prime minister to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as head of the defense alliance later this year.
“About NATO, more tomorrow. I will present these issues first to the CSAT (Supreme Council of National Defense), then to the public,” Iohannis said at a news conference Wednesday alongside Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who was visiting Bucharest.
“Tomorrow afternoon you will be fully informed and we will move forward,” he said.
Iohannis, 65, has vowed to bring a “renewal of perspective” to the alliance as a member of its eastern flank.
“It is time” for Romania, which joined NATO in 2004, to “assume an even greater responsibility within the Euro-Atlantic leadership,” Iohannis said when announcing his bid in March.
Leading NATO powers spearheaded by the United States are pressing to get an agreement on a new head of the alliance before a summit meeting in Washington next month.
Romania, which borders Ukraine and the Black Sea, has gained increased strategic importance since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The country hosts more than 5,000 foreign troops, the largest contingent anywhere in NATO’s southeastern region.
The nomination of a new NATO secretary general requires consensus from all 32 alliance members, and most appear ready to back Rutte — though Hungary had remained opposed until this week.
On Tuesday, Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he was “ready to support” Rutte’s candidacy after securing a guarantee from the Dutch leader that Budapest would not have to contribute to any coordinated NATO arms deliveries for Ukraine.
Rutte currently serves in a caretaker capacity as prime minister and is set to leave his position in the coming weeks once a new Dutch government is installed.


Donald Trump says Taiwan ‘should pay’ US for defense against China

Donald Trump says Taiwan ‘should pay’ US for defense against China
Updated 58 min 59 sec ago
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Donald Trump says Taiwan ‘should pay’ US for defense against China

Donald Trump says Taiwan ‘should pay’ US for defense against China
  • Former US president: ‘You know, we’re no different than an insurance company. Taiwan doesn’t give us anything’
  • While Washington does not diplomatically recognize the island, it is a key partner and major weapons provider to Taipei

TAIPEI: Taiwan “should pay” the United States for defense, US presidential candidate Donald Trump said in a wide-ranging interview that has cast doubt on the relationship between Washington and Taipei should he be re-elected in November.
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek published on Tuesday, the former president was asked if he would defend self-ruled Taiwan from China, which claims the island as part of its territory.
“I know the people very well, respect them greatly. They did take about 100 percent of our chip business. I think, Taiwan should pay us for defense,” he said, according to a transcript released by Bloomberg.
“You know, we’re no different than an insurance company. Taiwan doesn’t give us anything.”
While Washington does not diplomatically recognize the island, it is a key partner and major weapons provider to Taipei, and recently passed a multi-billion-dollar military aid package aimed at countering Beijing in the region.
Taiwan is also a major powerhouse in the crucial semiconductor industry, producing the majority of the advanced microchips needed to power the global economy.
A leader in the field is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which has been a key beneficiary of Washington’s Chips and Science Act — passed in 2022 to attract companies to invest in building chip factories on American soil.
Thanks to the law, TSMC is building two plants in the United States and announced plans for a third in April, bringing its total investment up to $65 billion.
Trump lamented in the interview that Washington was “giving them billions of dollars to build new chips in our country, and then they’re going to take that too.”
“I don’t think we’re any different from an insurance policy. Why? Why are we doing this? They took almost 100 percent of our chip industry, I give them credit,” he said.
Acknowledging Trump’s comments on Wednesday, Taiwanese Premier Cho Jung-tai pointed out Taipei had steadily boosted its defense budget in recent years.
“We are willing to take on more responsibility; we are defending ourselves and ensuring our security,” he told reporters during a press briefing.
“We are also clear that Taiwan-US relations have been very strong in recent years. Maintaining peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and Indo-Pacific region is our common responsibility and goal.”
China has said it will never renounce the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has also ramped up rhetoric about “unification” being “inevitable.”


European Commission didn’t provide enough information about COVID-19 vaccine deals, EU court says

European Commission didn’t provide enough information about COVID-19 vaccine deals, EU court says
Updated 17 July 2024
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European Commission didn’t provide enough information about COVID-19 vaccine deals, EU court says

European Commission didn’t provide enough information about COVID-19 vaccine deals, EU court says
  • According to the court, the procurement of vaccines on behalf of all 27 member states allowed the bloc to quickly gather 2.7 billion euros

BRUSSELS: The European Commission did not allow the public enough access to information about COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreements it secured with pharmaceutical companies during the pandemic, the EU general court said Wednesday.
The decision came a day ahead of a vote at the European Parliament at which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is seeking reelection.
A group of EU lawmakers had taken legal action after the Commission refused to grant them complete access to COVID-19 vaccine contracts secured between the EU’s executive arm and manufacturers.
The pandemic shed light on the issue of transparency surrounding the negotiations for vaccines between the EU and big pharmaceutical groups. The EU Commission was mandated by member countries to organize the joint procurement of vaccines during the pandemic and led negotiations with manufacturers.
According to the court, the procurement of vaccines on behalf of all 27 member states allowed the bloc to quickly gather 2.7 billion euros ($2.95 billion) to place an order for more than a billion doses of vaccines.
In 2021, some members of the European Parliament asked for the full details of the agreements, but the Commission only agreed to provide partial access to certain contracts and documents, which were placed online in redacted versions. It also refused to say how much it paid for the billions of doses it secured, arguing that contracts were protected for confidentiality reasons.
In a statement, the court said that “the Commission did not take sufficient account of all the relevant circumstances in order to weigh up correctly the interests at issue.”
Two years ago, the EU’s ombudsman said in a separate case that the Commission was responsible for “maladministration” for mishandling a request for access to text messages between its president and the CEO of pharmaceutical company Pfizer regarding COVID-19 vaccine purchases.
Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly recommended that the European Commission “do a more extensive search for the relevant messages” relating to such purchases after a story published by the New York Times revealed that von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had exchanged text messages and calls about vaccine procurements for EU countries.
A journalist then asked the Commission for access to the text messages and other documents, but the executive branch did not provide any texts, saying no record of such messages had been kept. Commission officials had argued that text messages are ephemeral and don’t contain important information to justify their inclusion in a document management system.


Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
Updated 17 July 2024
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Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
  • Foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Iran ‘strongly rejects any involvement in the recent armed attack against Trump’

TEHRAN: Iran on Wednesday rejected what it called “malicious” accusations by US media implicating it in a plot to kill former US president Donald Trump.
CNN reported Tuesday that US authorities received intelligence from a “human source” weeks ago on an alleged Iranian plot against the former president, prompting his protection to be boosted. Other US outlets also reported the alleged plot.
CNN said the alleged plot was not linked to Saturday’s shooting at a Trump campaign rally in Pennsylvania, in which the former president was wounded and a supporter killed.
The US National Security Council said it had been “tracking Iranian threats against former Trump administration officials for years” after Tehran threatened revenge for the 2020 killing of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in neighboring Iraq.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations called the accusations “unsubstantiated and malicious.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Iran “strongly rejects any involvement in the recent armed attack against Trump.”
He added however that Iran remains “determined to prosecute Trump over his direct role in the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani.”
Soleimani headed the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, overseeing Iranian military operations across the Middle East.
Trump ordered his killing in a drone strike just outside Baghdad airport.


Trump’s VP pick J.D. Vance signals shift away from Ukraine, Europe

Trump’s VP pick J.D. Vance signals shift away from Ukraine, Europe
Updated 17 July 2024
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Trump’s VP pick J.D. Vance signals shift away from Ukraine, Europe

Trump’s VP pick J.D. Vance signals shift away from Ukraine, Europe
  • J.D. Vance was one of the fiercest opponents of the approval of $61 billion in new military aid for Ukraine
  • Republican VP candidate: ‘NATO countries can’t be welfare clients of the US’

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump picked J.D. Vance — a staunch opponent of aid for Kyiv who wants Washington to refocus on Asia — as his running mate, signaling a potential shift away from Europe if the Republican candidate wins in November.
Vance — a 39-year-old retired US Marine and best-selling author — is ideologically close to the former president, and his views on foreign policy could help shape Trump’s second term in office if he defeats Democrat Joe Biden.
“I gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another as a country,” the senator from Ohio said on a podcast in April.
Vance was one of the fiercest opponents of the approval of $61 billion in new military aid for Ukraine, which was stalled by Republican lawmakers for months earlier this year — a time in which Russia made battlefield gains.
The United States has provided tens of billions of dollars in military assistance for Kyiv since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
But Vance and other Trump allies in Congress argue that Washington cannot continue to fund the war indefinitely, and a Trump victory in November would throw future American assistance for Ukraine into doubt.
Trump has said he would quickly end the conflict, raising the specter that Kyiv could be pushed to negotiate with Moscow from an unfavorable position.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that he was not concerned about the prospect of another Trump presidency, despite indications his administration could be more sympathetic to the Kremlin.
“I think that if Donald Trump becomes president, we will work together. I’m not worried about this,” Zelensky told a news conference.
Asked on Tuesday about the consequences of a Trump presidency for Ukraine, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said both lawmakers and the American public back continued support for Kyiv.
“The American people strongly support continued assistance to Ukraine. They strongly support allowing Ukraine and helping Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s aggression. It’s not just the American public, but it’s bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress,” Miller told journalists.
For Vance, European countries have relied on the United States for security for far too long, and he advocates a shift to increasingly concentrate on East Asia.
“NATO countries can’t be welfare clients of the US,” Vance told Fox News in June, while he said in February that “we have been subsidizing European security to the tune of trillions of dollars.”
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference earlier this year, Vance argued that “the United States has to focus more on East Asia. That is going to be the future of American foreign policy for the next 40 years, and Europe has to wake up to that fact.”
“The point is not we want to abandon Europe. The point is we need to focus as a country on East Asia, and we need our European allies to step up in Europe,” he said, urging the continent to “take a more aggressive role in its own security.”


Thai police say cyanide killed 6 foreigners in Bangkok hotel, including suspect

Thai police say cyanide killed 6 foreigners in Bangkok hotel, including suspect
Updated 17 July 2024
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Thai police say cyanide killed 6 foreigners in Bangkok hotel, including suspect

Thai police say cyanide killed 6 foreigners in Bangkok hotel, including suspect
  • The rapid-acting, deadly chemical was found on drinking glasses and a teapot in the room at the luxury Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel
  • The six were all of Vietnamese ethnicity, two of those US nationals, and were found dead late on Tuesday

BANGKOK: Cyanide poisoning was likely the cause of the deaths of six foreigners whose bodies were found in a room in a plush Bangkok hotel, with the suspected killer among the dead, Thai police said on Wednesday
The rapid-acting, deadly chemical was found on drinking glasses and a teapot in the room at the luxury Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel, and interviews with relatives of the dead revealed there had been a dispute over debt related to an investment, police said.
The six were all of Vietnamese ethnicity, two of those US nationals, and were found dead late on Tuesday. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation had assisted police with the investigation, police said.
“We found cyanide in the teacups, all six cups we found cyanide,” Trirong Phiwpan, Commander of the Thai police evidence office, told a press conference.
“After staff brought tea cups and two hot water bottles, milk and tea pots ... one of the six introduced cyanide.”
The results of an autopsy were expected within the next day, police said.
Vietnam’s government said its embassy in Bangkok was closely coordinating with Thai authorities on the case, while the US State Department said it was monitoring the situation and local authorities were responsible for the investigation.
The Grand Hyatt Erawan, operated by Erawan Group , has over 350 rooms and is located in a popular tourist district known for luxury shopping and restaurants.
News of the deaths, initially reported by some Thai media as a shooting, could be a setback for Thailand as it bets heavily on its vital tourism sector reviving an economy that has struggled since the pandemic.
Thailand is expecting 35 million foreign arrivals this year, up from 28 million last year who spent 1.2 trillion baht ($33.71 billion).
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Tuesday urged a swift probe into the issue to limit the impact on Thailand’s travel sector.