US, China At ‘Brink Of New Cold War’ – Chinese Minister

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during his online video link press conference during the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the media centre in Beijing on May 24, 2020. NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

 

 

The United States is pushing relations with China to “the brink of a new Cold War”, the Chinese foreign minister said on Sunday, with tensions soaring over coronavirus, Hong Kong’s status, and other issues.

“It has come to our attention that some political forces in the US are taking China-US relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War,” foreign minister Wang Yi told reporters.

Longstanding friction between the two powers over trade, human rights, and other issues has been pushed to new heights since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wang did not identify what “forces” he was referring to, but US President Donald Trump has led world criticism of China’s initial response to the pandemic, which has caused more than 330,000 deaths and economic carnage worldwide.

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The introduction in China’s legislature on Friday of a proposal to impose a security law in Hong Kong to suppress the semi-autonomous city’s pro-democracy movement has further raised the temperature, drawing the US and world condemnation.

But Wang hit back at Washington, accusing it of seeking to repeatedly “attack and smear” China.

“Aside from the devastation caused by the novel coronavirus, there is also a political virus spreading through the US,” Wang said at a press conference on the side of the annual legislative meeting.

“This political virus is the use of every opportunity to attack and smear China. Some politicians completely disregard basic facts and have fabricated too many lies targeting China, and plotted too many conspiracies.”

AFP

Sombre Mood As Germany Marks 30 Years Of Berlin Wall Fall

Spectators stand in front of a 3D video installation projected on the so-called East Side Gallery, a 1,3 km-long portion of the Berlin wall, during a rehearsal on November 3, 2019 in Berlin.
PHOTO: Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

 

Germany marks three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall this week, but a hint of a return of the Cold War and the rise of nationalism is dampening the mood.

Leaders of former Cold War powers will be absent from anniversary festivities, as Donald Trump’s America First, Britain’s Brexit and Russia’s resurgence put a strain on ties.

Gone, too, is the euphoric optimism for liberal democracy and freedom that characterised the momentous event on November 9, 1989, as Germany grapples with a surge in far-right support in its former communist states.

“The spirit of optimism” that we saw 30 years ago, or even five or 10 years ago, “is not perceivable” today, said Berlin’s culture senator Klaus Lederer, whose office took the lead in putting together the capital’s festivities for the week.

The mood is, therefore “reflective, but we are celebrating”, he said. “We are looking back at history together, and we are also talking about the future.”

As a sign of the tense times, Germany will put on a sober political programme to mark the epochal event that led to reunification and brought down the Iron Curtain dividing a communist East from a capitalist West.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the anniversary was a chance to remind Europe why it needs to stay united in the face of rising geopolitical tensions around the world.

“Exhortations from individual European capitals fall on deaf ears in Moscow, Beijing and, unfortunately, to an increasing extent also in Washington, DC,” he wrote in an op-ed carried in newspapers across the EU on Saturday.

“It is only Europe’s voice that carries decisive weight. This is why unilateral action at the national level must finally be taboo in Europe.”

– Serious tone –
While the spotlight five years ago was on world leaders from Barack Obama to Mikhail Gorbachev, this time around, the central focus is on Europe itself.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen will set the tone with a speech on the eve of the anniversary at an event attended also by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On November 9, only central European presidents will headline the official ceremonies.

Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be joined by his Polish, Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian counterparts, in town to mark “the contribution of the central European countries to the peaceful revolution” that led to the collapse of the communist regime.

Merkel will speak at the Chapel of Reconciliation, which stands on the former Berlin Wall border strip.

Steinmeier, the moral arbiter of the country, will also make a speech at the Brandenburg Gate on the anniversary evening, before a series of concerts including by the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

And US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was stationed in Germany as a young soldier in 1989, will be in visiting from Wednesday but leave on the eve of the anniversary.

He meets Merkel and members of her cabinet on Friday, in meetings set to underline the growing divisions across the globe.

In a statement announcing his visit, Pompeo’s office said talks with his counterpart Maas will “discuss the importance of our Transatlantic partnership and the need for strengthened engagement in the face of growing threats from Russia, China, and Iran.”

– ‘Cold war is back’ –
While the fall of the Iron Curtain that divided post-war Europe had led to hopes of a liberal democratic era and arms dismantlement three decades ago, the mood has soured today.

Within the EU, cracks have appeared as former eastern bloc countries like Hungary or Poland are accused by Brussels of challenging the rule of law.

On a broader arena, Trump’s go-it-alone stance on rejecting world treaties including on climate change and a nuclear disarmament deal with Iran has deeply shaken long-time allies in Europe.

Russia, meanwhile, is consolidating its foothold in the Middle East, while the US is also increasingly at odds with China.

For UN chief Antonio Guterres, “the Cold War is back — with a vengeance, but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present.”

Gorbachev, who chose to stand aside instead of stopping the Wall from falling 30 years back, was also more pessimistic today.

Writing in his latest book, Gorbachev warned: “International politics is on an extremely dangerous trajectory… military operations currently have the characteristics of a real war.”

AFP

German Court Jails Vietnamese Over Cold War-Style Abduction

A Higher Administrative Court in Schleswig, northern Germany (file)                  Patrik STOLLARZ / AFP

 

A German court on Wednesday sentenced a Vietnamese man to nearly four years in jail for taking part in a brazen Cold War-style kidnapping ordered by Hanoi of an oil executive from a Berlin park.

Judges at the Berlin court said the 47-year-old Czech-Vietnamese national, identified as Long N.H., was guilty of aiding an abduction and working for a foreign intelligence service.

But they handed him a relatively mild sentence of three years and ten months after he confessed to his involvement.

“The accused knew of the plans of the Vietnamese secret service but did not belong to the top level of command,” judges said in their verdict, according to DPA news agency.

Long N.H. admitted during his trial that he rented the vehicle used in last July’s abduction of fugitive Vietnamese state company official Trinh Xuan Thanh, who was spirited back to Hanoi.

Thanh — also a Communist party functionary who was seeking political asylum in Germany — has since been sentenced to two life terms in Vietnam on corruption charges.

The 52-year-old and his companion were walking in Berlin’s Tiergarten park when they were dragged into a van in broad daylight and smuggled back to Vietnam.

The German government was outraged, calling it a “scandalous violation” of its sovereignty.

Communist-ruled Vietnam has always insisted that Thanh, the former head of PetroVietnam Construction, returned voluntarily to face embezzlement charges.

Thanh’s German lawyer, Petra Schlagenhauf, has described the kidnapping as “like a story from the Cold War”.

Mystery route 

Long N.H., was once among thousands of so-called guest workers in communist East Germany. He was later denied asylum and resettled in Prague.

He was arrested there last August and extradited to Germany days later.

He admitted renting the van used in the abduction in Prague and driving it to Berlin, but he was not at the wheel during the kidnapping. He then drove the van back to Prague.

It remains unclear exactly how Thanh was transported back to his home country, but investigators believe he was driven to the Slovakian capital Bratislava and then flown to Hanoi.

German media have reported that a Slovakian government plane lent to a visiting Vietnamese delegation at the time was involved in the transfer.

Slovakia has said it noticed nothing suspicious about the delegation or their flights but warned Hanoi of harsh consequences if the allegations proved true.

AFP

Singapore Agreement Will End Cold War, Says Moon

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (R) hugging North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un after their second summit at the north side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). / AFP

 

South Korean President, Moon Jae-in has hailed the outcome of the summit between President Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un as a “historic event” that ended the last Cold War conflict.

“I offer my heartfelt congratulations and welcome the success of the historic North Korea-United States summit”, Moon said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The June 12 Sentosa Agreement will be recorded as a historic event that has helped break down the last remaining Cold War legacy on Earth,” he said.

Moon has made great efforts playing the role of mediator to bring the Cold War foes back to dialogue.

He praised Trump and Kim for their “courage and determination” not to settle for “that outdated and familiar reality but to take a daring step towards change”.

He lionised Trump for achieving “a feat that no one else has ever delivered”, adding Kim would also be remembered as “a leader who made a historic moment by taking the first bold step toward the world”.

“Building upon the agreement reached today, we will take a new path going forward.

“Leaving dark days of war and conflict behind, we will write a new chapter of peace and cooperation. We will be there together with North Korea along the way”, he said.

Moon, however, cautioned that this was “just a beginning and there may be many difficulties ahead”.

“But we will never go back to the past again and never give up on this bold journey. History is a record of people who take action and rise to a challenge,” he added.

AFP

NATO Chief Opposes Confrontation With Russia

NATO, Russia, Cold warThe Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, says the alliance is not seeking a confrontation with Russia and does not want another cold war.

According to him, the planned deployment of 4,000 extra troops to Eastern Europe aims to prevent, not provoke conflict.

Mr Stoltenberg added that despite current tensions, the military alliance does not see Russia as a threat.

Currently, relations between the west and Russia are at their lowest point since the cold war.

The U.S. and European Union imposed sanctions on Russia following its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

The war in Syria has also been a flash point for tensions, with key western powers accusing Russia of war crimes in its bombardment of opposition-held areas in support of the Syrian government.

Kerry To Hold Talks In Ukraine

kerryAs fighting intensifies in Ukraine, the Unites States Secretary of State, John Kerry, is expected to arrive in the country to hold talks with President Petro Poroshenkom, and his Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk.

A superior source said that Kerry would offer U.S. support for efforts by Ukraine to negotiate a new ceasefire.

The issue of weapon deliveries to Ukraine and other U.S. assistance is expected to be one of the main items on the agenda.

Kerry also intends to provide an additional $16.4 billion in humanitarian aid to help civilians in eastern Ukraine, U.S. officials said.

Earlier, Ashton Carter, the White House’s choice for Defence Secretary, said that he was “inclined” to start supplying arms.

The U.S. has so far only provided “non-lethal” assistance to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, NATO is set to unveil what the bloc’s chief says are “the biggest reinforcement” of its “collective defense since the end of the cold war”.

However, Russia denies accusations by Ukraine and the west that it is arming the rebels in Eastern Ukraine and sending its regular troops across the border.

Obama Asia Tour: US-Japan Treaty ‘Covers Disputed Islands’

US-JapanAs President Barack Obama continues his tour of Japan, the U.S. leader has reaffirmed his support for Tokyo in its row over islands with China.

Mr. Obama, who is on a four-nation Asia tour, warned against escalation in the dispute and said that he wanted to see the row resolved peacefully.

A royal welcome greeted U.S. President, Barack Obama in Tokyo on Thursday as he kicked off a day-long tour of the Japanese capital, with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko shaking hands with Mr. Obama and ushering him onto a red carpet for an official welcome ceremony in the grounds of the Imperial Palace.

After the ceremony Obama headed for talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, after which he confirmed that the islands falls under a security treaty that commits the U.S. to act if Japan is attacked.

Addressing a joint news conference, President Obama said: “Let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute and article 5 covers all territories under Japan’s administration including the Senkaku islands”, Obama said.

The U.S. President also said that the United States would defend a group of islands disputed between Japan and China if needed and threatened more sanctions on Russia.

“Large countries, small countries all have to abide by what is considered just and fair and that we are resolving disputes in peaceful fashion. And this is a message that I have delivered directly to the Chinese and it’s one that I think is entirely consistent with China being successful.

“I think the alternative is a situation in which large countries like the United States or China or Russia or other countries feel as if whenever they think its expedient they can take actions that disadvantage smaller countries.”

However, China rejected Mr. Obama’s remark that a security treaty between the U.S. and Japan covers a chain of islets disputed by Beijing and Tokyo.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang said: “The so-called US-Japan security treaty is a product of the Cold War era and it cannot be aimed at a third party and ought not to harm China’s territorial sovereignty.

“No matter what anyone says or does, it cannot change the basic reality that the Diaoyu islands are China’s inherent territory and cannot shake the resolve and determination of the Chinese Government and people to protect (our) sovereignty and maritime rights”, he said.

 

US Says Russia Is Making Crimea Diplomacy More Difficult

State Department Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki addresses reporters.
State Department Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, addresses reporters.

The United States said on Tuesday, March 11 that Russia’s responses to U.S. proposals to end the crisis in Ukraine do not create the environment for a diplomatic resolution.

Russia’s bloodless seizure of the Crimea region of Ukraine has brought U.S.-Russian relations to one of their lowest points since the Cold War, with the United States searching for a way to keep Russia from annexing Crimea and its Russian naval base.

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry spoke to Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday morning to discuss a series of questions that Washington put to Moscow over the weekend in an effort to find a diplomatic solution, the State Department said.

“He (Kerry) also reiterated his willingness to continue to engage with Foreign Minister Lavrov, including this week, but that the environment has to be right and the goal must be to protect the immunity and sovereignty of Ukraine and we didn’t see that, obviously, in the responses that we received back,” State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki told reporters.

Psaki said that Russia gave its response to the questions on Monday (March 10).

On Monday, the State Department held out the possibility that Kerry might travel to Russia this week but that it needed to know whether Moscow would engage on a diplomatic solution.

While the spokeswoman said Kerry was still open to going to Russia before Sunday’s (March 16) planned referendum in Crimea on whether to join Russia — a poll the United States sees as illegitimate — her comments suggested such a trip was now unlikely.

Kerry told Lavrov “any further escalatory steps will make the window for diplomacy more difficult;” Psaki said, adding that he also said that “it is unacceptable that Russian forces and irregulars continue to take matters into their own hands.”

Russia Says CIA Agent Caught Trying To Recruit Spy

Russia said on Tuesday it had caught an American red-handed as he tried to recruit a Russian intelligence officer to work for the CIA, a throwback to the Cold War era that risks upsetting efforts to improve relations.

The announcement came at an awkward time, just days after a visit by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, during which Washington and Moscow agreed to try to bring the warring sides in Syria together for an international peace conference.

The Federal Security Service said Ryan Fogle, a third secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, had been detained overnight carrying “special technical equipment”, a disguise, a large sum of money and instructions for recruiting his target.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul over the case and a Russian television station published photographs which it said showed Fogle being detained, apparently wearing a blond wig.

A successor of the Soviet-era KGB, the FSB said Fogle worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and that he had been handed over to embassy officials at some point after his detention.

Diplomats accused of espionage are usually expelled or withdrawn.

“On the night of May 13-14, a staff employee of the CIA, Ryan Christopher Fogle … was detained by counter-espionage organs of the Russian FSB while attempting to recruit an employee of one of the Russian special services,” the FSB said.

“Recently, American intelligence has made multiple attempts to recruit employees of Russian law enforcement organs and special agencies, which have been detected and monitored by Russian FSB counterintelligence,” it said in a statement.

The embassy declined comment. McFaul, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, was holding a live question-and-answer session on Twitter as news of the detention was announced, but refused to take questions on the matter.

Russia Today television published photographs on its website which it said showed Fogle being detained. In one photograph, a man lies face-down on the ground with his arms held behind his back by another man, and apparently wearing a blond wig.

Another image showed two wigs, apparently found on him, as well as three pairs of glasses, a torch, a mobile phone and a compass. Aldo displayed was a wad of 500-euro ($650) notes and an envelope addressed to a “dear friend”.

The United States and Russia are still involved in espionage, more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, and the FSB said such incidents were not unusual.

The last major espionage scandal occurred in 2010, when 10 Russian agents including Anna Chapman were arrested in the United States and later deported in exchange for four Russians imprisoned on charges of spying for the West.

U.S.-Russian relations turned colder after former KGB spy Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency a year ago.

The United States and Russia are also trying to improve counterterrorism cooperation following the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15. FBI chief Robert Mueller visited Moscow for talks last week.