Tag Archives: UAE

China: Daily Scan, September 29, 2022

Chinese envoy calls for engagement with Afghan Taliban: Xinhuanet
September 28, 2022

A Chinese envoy on Tuesday called on the international community to engage with Afghanistan’s Taliban. “The international community should remain engaged with the Afghan interim government in a pragmatic manner, carry out positive interactions, provide patient guidance, enhance mutual understanding and trust, and help the Afghan interim government build inclusive and moderate governance,” said Geng Shuang, China’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations. Click here to read…

China to pilot inclusive finance reform in three cities: Xinhuanet
September 28, 2022

China will carry out pilot inclusive finance reform in three cities, the country’s central bank said Wednesday. Trials will be conducted in Tongchuan, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, Lishui in east China’s Zhejiang Province, and Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, according to the plans released by the People’s Bank of China and seven relevant authorities. Click here to read…l

Chinese students in US see first decline in 10 years: Global Times
September 28, 2022

Chinese students may choose to study in European and Asian countries instead of the US or Australia in the future due to geopolitical factors, said a report released by a Chinese think tank on Wednesday, which also noted that the number of overseas Chinese students coming back to China after graduation will witness a continuous increase. Click here to read…

Xi Jinping visits exhibition themed “Forging Ahead in the New Era,” stresses vigorousness, resoluteness and solidarity in striving for new success of socialism with Chinese characteristics: People’s Daily
September 28, 2022

As the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is drawing near, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, president of the People’s Republic of China and chairman of the Central Military Commission, visited an exhibition themed “Forging Ahead in the New Era” at Beijing Exhibition Center on September 27. Xi stressed, since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee has united and led the whole Party and the people of all ethnic groups in solving many tough problems that were long on the agenda but remained unsolved, accomplishing many things of vital importance and long-term significance, and withstanding the test brought about by risks and challenges from political, economic, ideological, and natural domains. Click here to read…

China’s c.bank launches $28 bln loan facility to support equipment upgrades: Reuters
September 28, 2022

China’s central bank said on Wednesday it has set up a relending facility worth more than 200 billion yuan ($27.59 billion) to help manufacturers and other companies upgrade their equipment, as part of a push to revive flagging demand. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said in a statement that it will provide low-cost funds to financial institutions and guide them to lend to firms to support such upgrades. Click here to read…

China property shares, bonds slump as CIFI default report adds to sector woes: Reuters
September 28, 2022

Investors dumped shares and bonds of Chinese property developers on Wednesday, after a media report that CIFI Holdings (Group) Co had defaulted added to worries over the crisis-stricken real estate sector. Click here to read…

New U.S. strategy to enhance Pacific ties amid China’s rise in region: Kyodo
September 28, 2022

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden vowed Wednesday to strengthen ties with Pacific island nations through an enhanced diplomatic presence and climate crisis support as part of its first strategy specifically focused on the region. The move comes as the U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit is set to be held in Washington for two days from Wednesday, in another effort by the Biden administration to step up regional engagement in the face of China’s expanding influence. Click here to read…

Former top graft-buster at Chinese spy agency to face court on bribery charges: South China Morning Post
September 28, 2022

A former anti-corruption chief at China’s spy agency, the Ministry of State Security, was indicted for bribery on Wednesday, the top prosecutor’s office said. The National Supervisory Commission has finished its investigation of Liu Yanping, 67, according to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) statement. Liu, who was detained in March, was a committee director under the ministry’s branch of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). Click here to read…

China tests central bank digital currency use to settle trades via ‘bridge’ with partners including Hong Kong, Thailand and UAE: South China Morning Post
September 29, 2022

China has completed a 40-day trial using central bank digital currencies to settle trades with Hong Kong, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates via a special “bridge” arrangement, according to a brief report published by the Financial News, the mouthpiece of the Chinese central bank. Click here to read…

Financial distress of local governments raises debt-default risks, weighs on average Chinese: South China Morning Post
September 29, 2022

Growing financial distress in regions across China is raising the risk of local governments defaulting on their bonds, as the nation presses on with its costly zero-Covid strategy. The weakening of local government finances has been of growing concern in recent weeks, triggering questions about whether local Chinese authorities will need to cut back on spending in public services, and about the overall rising costs of keeping nationwide coronavirus-curbing measures in place. Click here to read…

Former Jiangsu senior Party official indicted for bribery: Xinhuanet
September 29, 2022

Zhang Jinghua, former deputy secretary of the Jiangsu Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), has been indicted on charges of taking bribes. The National Commission of Supervision had concluded its probe into Zhang’s case. Upon the designation of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the Wuhan Municipal People’s Procuratorate in central China’s Hubei Province reviewed the case and initiated a public prosecution against Zhang at the Intermediate People’s Court of Wuhan. Click here to read…

Chinese premier urges policy implementation to boost economic recovery: Xinhuanet
September 29, 2022

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday called for solid efforts to carry out the country’s policies aimed at stabilizing economic recovery. Li, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks at a meeting on government work regarding economic stabilization for the fourth quarter of this year. Click here to read…

China blasts U.S. for cyber attacks on Chinese university: Xinhuanet
September 29, 2022

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday said evidence proved that the United States is the greatest threat to global cyber security, calling for joint effort against U.S. infringement on cyber sovereignty and international rules. Click here to read…

Chinese mainland reports 106 new local confirmed COVID-19 cases: Xinhuanet
September 29, 2022

The Chinese mainland on Wednesday reported 106 locally transmitted confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 38 were in Guizhou, the National Health Commission said Thursday. Altogether 526 local asymptomatic carriers were newly identified. Click here to read…

China, Arab countries hold webinar on military higher learning cooperation: China Military
September 29, 2022

The China-Arab States seminar on military higher learning institutions was held via video link at the National Defense University (NDU) of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Wednesday evening. The theme of the seminar is “Strengthening higher military education cooperation and promoting the construction of a China-Arab community with a shared future”. Leaders of military higher learning institutions from 16 Arab countries attended the event. Click here to read…

China probes ‘problematic maps’ that endanger national security: Global Times
September 29, 2022

China’s natural resources and national security departments have carried out joint law enforcement operations against relevant enterprises and organizations that use “problematic maps” overseas, China Central Television reported on Wednesday. Click here to read…

China signals no let-up in its aggressive diplomacy: Reuters
September 29, 2022

China signalled on Thursday no let-up in its combative approach to foreign policy in a third term for Xi Jinping as leader despite criticism from many Western diplomats that the so-called Wolf Warrior stance has been counterproductive. Click here to read…

China: Daily Scan, June 1, 2022

China’s Tianjin appoints acting mayor: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

Zhang Gong was appointed deputy mayor and acting mayor of north China’s Tianjin Municipality on Tuesday. The appointment was made at the 34th session of the Standing Committee of the 17th Tianjin Municipal People’s Congress. Click here to read…

Xi stresses efforts to promote children’s healthy, all-round development: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday stressed efforts to promote the healthy and all-round development of children and extended festive greetings to children across the country ahead of the International Children’s Day which falls on June 1. Click here to read…

Xi congratulates China Soong Ching Ling Foundation over 40th anniversary: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday sent a congratulatory letter to the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation (CSCLF) over the 40th anniversary of its founding. In the letter, Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, urged the foundation to make new and greater contributions to the promotion of solidarity of all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation at home and abroad. Click here to read…

U.S. urged to stop fabricating, spreading lies and rumors to smear China: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Tuesday urged the United States to stop fabricating and spreading lies and rumors of all kinds to smear and denigrate China, and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs in the name of so-called human rights issues. Click here to read…

Chinese FM stresses cooperation over competition in Sino-U.S. relations: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered a speech here via video at a symposium named “Kissinger and China-U.S. Relations” on Tuesday to express his opinion on the right path of bilateral relations. Click here to read…

China relaxes restrictions, cuts taxes to boost auto sales: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

China will halve the purchase tax for eligible passenger vehicles and ease restrictions to spur auto sales and underpin consumption, authorities said. The country will slash the purchase tax by half for passenger cars under 300,000 yuan (about 45,040 U.S. dollars) with engine displacements within 2 liters purchased between June 1 and Dec. 31 this year, said a notice jointly released by the Ministry of Finance and the State Tax Administration Tuesday. Click here to read…

Chinese scientists reveal human impact on extreme precipitation: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

Human activities may increase extreme precipitation events, according to a study recently published in the journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science. The study was conducted by a research team from the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Click here to read…

Shanghai’s largest temporary COVID-19 hospital closes: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

The largest temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients in Shanghai during the latest resurgence of infections was closed on Tuesday. The hospital, which was set up in the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai), started to receive patients on April 9. More than 174,000 patients in the megacity received treatment there during the outbreak. Click here to read…

China issues guideline on disinfection procedures amid epidemic: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

Chinese health authorities on Tuesday issued a set of disinfection procedures, banning any “simplistic or unmannerly” conduct of disinfectant workers while spraying disinfectant in the homes of coronavirus-infected people. Click here to read…

China to intensify efforts in improving rural transport infrastructure: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

China is planning to increase its efforts to improve transport infrastructure in rural areas this year, the country’s Vice Minister of Transport Zhao Chongjiu said Tuesday. China will complete the reconstruction of an extra 30,000 km of rural highways this year, bringing the total annual reconstruction goal to 150,000 km, Zhao told a press conference. Click here to read…

Shanghai rolls out measures to boost tourism: Xinhuanet
May 31, 2022

The Shanghai municipal government Tuesday released new measures to promote the recovery and development of tourism, the third year in a row that the city has introduced such measures. Click here to read…

Firefighting seaplane makes debut flight in Zhuhai: China Daily
May 31, 2022

The fire-extinguishing variant of China’s AG600 seaplane carried out its first flight in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, on Tuesday morning, according to the Aviation Industry Corp of China. The State-owned aircraft maker said in a release that the plane was piloted by a four-member crew and took off from the Zhuhai Jinwan Airport at 10:55 am. It flew for 20 minutes before returning to the airport. Click here to read…

Air-inflated testing lab built in Beijing’s Fangshan district: China Daily
May 31, 2022

Beijing has completed the construction of an air-inflated testing lab in Fangshan district, covering an area of 4,000 square meters, which will have a daily testing capacity of 100,000 tubes of samples, including for nucleic acid tests, according to the official WeChat account of Fangshan district on Tuesday. Click here to read…

Chinese Defense Minister to attend Shangri-La Dialogue; throws possibility of a meeting with US defense chief into spotlight: Global Times
May 31, 2022

Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe will attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in early June, the ministry announced Tuesday. With speculation rising over the possibility of a first in-person meeting between Wei and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the event amid tensions across the Taiwan Straits, Chinese experts said on Tuesday that both sides should keep communicating, despite low expectations for a tangible result. Click here to read…

PLA sends 30 warplanes near Taiwan island amid US senator visit, carrier drills: Global Times
May 31, 2022

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly dispatched 30 warplanes to the vicinity of the island of Taiwan on Monday, the same day a US senator arrived on the island for a surprise visit, and also at the same time the US Navy was holding dual carrier drills not far away from the region. Click here to read…

Shanghai-based shipyard in full swing as Omicron abates, ‘ready for launch of 3rd aircraft carrier’: Global Times
May 31, 2022

In a significant achievement of work resumption after the latest COVID-19 resurgence in Shanghai, the Jiangnan Shipyard on Monday launched three new ships and readied two ships for the next stage of construction, with the shipbuilder vowing to make up for lost time and complete all production missions on time. Click here to read…

China rolls out 33 detailed measures to boost growth; major rebound expected in Q3: Global Times
May 31, 2022

China has mounted a full-fledged battle to stabilize its economy, as all levels of governments – from the State Council, the cabinet to ministries to local governments – raced to implement a sweeping set of 33 measures aimed at tackling specific challenges and keep economic operations within in reasonable range, according to an official notice on Tuesday. Click here to read…

Chinese apparel brand JNBY fined 800,000 yuan for using incorrect national map: Global Times
May 31, 2022

Chinese clothing brand JNBY was fined 800,000 yuan ($120,140) by the market supervisor for using an incorrect national map on its official website, according to an administrative penalty record shown on business information site Tianyancha. Click here to read…

China vows new financial tools to support drive to carbon neutrality: Reuters
May 31, 2022

China’s government said it will expand its range of financial tools and make greater use of fiscal and taxation policies to support the shift towards carbon neutrality. China aims to create a basic financial policy framework by 2030 to support green and low-carbon development, and will also aim to give more play to market mechanisms like carbon and pollution discharge trading, according to policy recommendations from the Ministry of Finance published late on Monday. Click here to read…

China announces detailed stimulus measures to support virus-hit economy: Reuters
May 31, 2022

China’s cabinet announced a package of 33 measures covering fiscal, financial, investment and industrial policies on Tuesday to revive its pandemic-ravaged economy, adding it will inspect how provincial governments implement them. Click here to read…

U.S. investigates Chinese companies over export sanction issues: Reuters
June 1, 2022

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Tuesday the Biden administration is actively considering adding new Chinese companies to the government’s economic blacklist as it investigates what it calls efforts by China to evade U.S. sanctions. The Commerce Department’s Entity List restricts access to U.S. exports. Click here to read…

China stops media questioning Wang: Taipei Times
June 1, 2022

Journalists covering a tour of the Pacific by Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi say they have been blocked from filming or accessing events, and that not a single question from a Pacific journalist has been allowed. The allegations raise serious press freedom concerns and alarm about the ability of Pacific journalists to do their jobs, particularly as the relationship between the region and China becomes closer. Click here to read…

PRC actress fined over fat-loss ads: Taipei Times
June 1, 2022

Chinese actress Jing Tian has been slapped with a US$1.1 million fine for breaching the nation’s advertising law by touting candies as a weight-loss drug. Jing, who has been in Hollywood blockbusters such as The Great Wall with Matt Damon and Kong: Skull Island, has been a brand ambassador for Infinite Free, a Guangzhou-based company that claimed its fruit and vegetable candy could prevent the body from absorbing sugars, oils and fats. Click here to read…

China urges supporting African countries to resolve problems in African ways: Xinhuanet
June 1, 2022

A Chinese envoy on Tuesday called on the international community to support African countries in resolving their own problems in their own ways. “We call on the international community to support the efforts by regional countries in resolving African issues in African ways,” Dai Bing, China’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told a UN Security Council meeting on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Click here to read…

China to defer social-insurance payments for more pandemic-hit sectors: Xinhuanet
June 1, 2022

Chinese authorities announced on Tuesday the temporary deferment of social-insurance premium payments for more firms that have been hit by the pandemic, as the latest move to alleviate the financial burden on certain industries. Click here to read…

1 dead, 13 injured after blast rocks restaurant in central China: Xinhuanet
June 1, 2022

One person had been killed and 13 others injured as of 10:30 a.m. after a blast rocked a rice noodle restaurant in Changsha County, central China’s Hunan Province, at about 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, according to the local publicity department. Click here to read…

Chinese mainland reports 22 new local confirmed COVID-19 cases, 14 in Beijing: Xinhuanet
June 1, 2022

The Chinese mainland Tuesday reported 22 locally-transmitted confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 14 in Beijing and five in Shanghai, according to the National Health Commission’s report Wednesday. Click here to read…

China ready to boost friendship, cooperation with UAE: Quishi
June 1, 2022

China is ready to work with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to consolidate friendship, cement mutual trust and deepen cooperation, said Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday afternoon. Click here to read…

China remains attractive destination for foreign investment: Quishi
June 1, 2022

Data from China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) indicated that China saw 185 newly-added major projects during the first four months of this year, each with foreign investment of over $100 million. This means that an average of 1.5 major foreign-funded projects had been launched in China per day during the period. Click here to read…

Defense minister to attend forum: China Daily
June 1, 2022

The attendance of China’s defense minister at the Shangri-La Dialogue will be vital amid the current fluctuating international situation, and provide an opportunity to avoid miscalculations among different parties, said experts. Click here to read…

Chinese state councilor stresses need for efforts to defuse major safety risks: China Daily
June 1, 2022

Chinese State Councilor Wang Yong has called for solid efforts to forestall and defuse various major safety risks and resolutely prevent serious and major accidents. Wang made the remarks during a national video conference on production safety held on Tuesday. Click here to read…

Beijing advises against traveling outside city during Dragon Boat holiday: China Daily
June 1, 2022

The Beijing government is encouraging all residents to spend the coming Dragon Boat Festival in the city and people should avoid infection by staying away from places of high or medium risk for COVID-19, a senior official said on Tuesday. Click here to read…

More Chinese students using e-cigarettes: Global Times
June 1, 2022

Nearly 5 percent of Chinese students in middle schools have the habit of smoking and 3.6 percent of the group use e-cigarettes regularly, according to a survey conducted in 2021 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China’s CDC). The data was released on Tuesday, the World No Tobacco Day, along with other reports that demonstrate an increasing tendency of Chinese minors to use e-cigarettes. Click here to read…

China ranks first in world in numbers of MOOCs and viewers: People’s Daily
June 1, 2022

China ranks first globally in the numbers of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and viewers, and sees fast growth in the figures, said Wu Yan, director of the Department of Higher Education of China’s Ministry of Education (MOE). Smart Education of China, a government-sponsored online education platform in China, offers courses in a wide variety of fields. Click here to read…

Companies promote recruitment via livestreaming in China: People’s Daily
June 1, 2022

Livestreaming shows for recruitment, one of the most popular online recruitment methods lately, is in the ascendant on Chinese short-video sharing platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou. Click here to read…

VIF Neighbourhood News Digest: March 30, 2022

Afghanistan
UN Calls on Islamic Emirate to Honor Promise on Girls’ Education: Tolo News

The members of the UN Security Council have expressed their deep concern regarding the inability of girls beyond grade six in Afghanistan to return to their schools, as they were promised. Click here to read…

EU: Decision on Girls’ Schools Impacts Engagement: Tolo News

The European Union on Monday in a statement said the decision on girls’ education by the Islamic Emirate violates the fundamental right to education, and called for the immediate re-opening of secondary schools for girls in the country. Click here to read…

WB suspends $600M worth of projects in Afghanistan over school ban: The Khaama Press

The World Bank has announced that they have put on hold four projects in Afghanistan worth of $600 million following the ban on girls’ secondary schools in the country. The projects that were funded by Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) concentrated on agriculture, education, health, and livelihood. Click here to read…

Bangladesh
World Bank approves $358m for safer roads in Bangladesh- The Daily Star

World Bank today approved $358 million to help Bangladesh improve road safety, and reduce fatalities and injuries from road accidents in selected high-risk highways and district roads. Click here to read…

Russel wanted to be an army officer: PM- The Daily Star

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today asked Bangladesh Armed Forces personnel to always be ready to protect the country’s independence and sovereignty. Click here to read…

Only 3,000 social workers to protect vulnerable children in Bangladesh: Unicef- The Daily Star

Over 100,000 social workers are needed in Bangladesh to adequately respond to the needs of vulnerable children, but currently there are only 3,000 social workers in the country, Unicef has said. Click here to read…

Freedom of expression still heavily curtailed in Bangladesh: Amnesty International- The Daily Star

Freedom of expression continued to be heavily curtailed by draconian laws” in Bangladesh in 2021, Amnesty International has said. Click here to read…

Can firmly say Rab last resort in rescuing abducted victims: DG- The Daily Star

The Rapid Action Battalion’s success in combating crime with upholding humanity is unprecedented in the world, said its Director General Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun. Click here to read…

Bomb attack on Benapole land port workers: 3 cases filed against 36- The Daily Star

Three cases have been filed against 36 people in connection with yesterday’s crude bomb attack on workers of Benapole Land Port in Jashore’sSharshaupazila, which left 20 people injured. Click here to read…

Onion import to continue: agriculture secretary- The Daily Star

The option to import onion will remain open now in order to keep the price of the cocking ingredient stable ahead of Ramadan, said Agriculture Secretary Md Sayedul Islam. Click here to read…

US to provide $152m aid for Rohingyas, host communities: Ambassador- The Daily Star.

US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter Haas, has announced USD 152 million in new humanitarian assistance for nearly one million Rohingyas and host communities. Click here to read…

Santal farmers killed selves being deprived of irrigation water: Farmers tell probe body blaming operator- The Daily Star

While the probe committee from the Ministry of Agriculture visited Rajshahi’sGodagariupazila today, many farmers elaborately told them that the death of two santal farmers was primarily because the operator deprived them of irrigation water. Click here to read…

BNP incited left parties to call hart all- The Daily Star

Information Minister Hasan Mahmud yesterday said BNP instigated left-leaning political parties to enforce hartal, which protested price hike of essentials. Click here to read…

Bhutan
Actions will be taken on free-roaming Covid-19 positive cases- Kuensel

The increasing number of positive cases in the community is attributed to the people not isolating themselves strictly after testing positive. Click here to read…

India releases Nu 737M for 12th Plan projects- Kuensel

The government of India released Nu 737 million (M) yesterday for projects including roads, urban development and school infrastructure. Click here to read…

8Economic affairs ministry proposes options to reduce fuel price- Kuensel

The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) has proposed numerous interventions to the Cabinet to reduce fuel prices. Click here to read…

Maldives

The Maldives, UAE sign MoU on experience exchange on gov’t development, modernization: Raajje M

A significant agreement has been signed between the Maldives and United Arab Emirates (UAE), as part of Vice President Faisal Naseem’s ongoing visit to the UAE. Click here to read…

Myanmar
The Day Civilians Took Office in Myanmar After 53 Years of Military Rule – The Irrawaddy

On this day in 2016, a civilian government took office for the first time in 53 years in Myanmar following the National League for Democracy (NLD)’s victory in the November 2015 general election. Click here to read…

In Solidarity with Coup Leader, Myanmar Ex-Generals Appear at Armed Forces Day Event – The Irrawaddy

The appearance of ex-generals from the previous Myanmar military regime at the Armed Forces Day commemoration and subsequent ceremony hosted by the current regime on Sunday proves that they are all in solidarity with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who staged a coup that has so far killed 1,700 people. Click here to read…

Myanmar Junta Helicopter Crashes in Chin State – The Irrawaddy

A military helicopter crashed and injured five people onboard at Hakha, Chin State’s capital, on Tuesday morning, according to Myanmar’s junta. It is the third air force crash since June. Myanmar’s air force is known for frequent deadly crashes, even during training exercises, due to its largely outdated fleet.Click here to read…

Myanmar Junta Enacts Law Allowing It to Deploy Police to Front Lines – The Irrawaddy

The Myanmar military regime has enacted a new law making it compulsory for law enforcement officers to fight alongside soldiers on the front lines, while expanding their powers to restrict citizens’ civil liberties. Click here to read…

Karen Ethnic Armed Group Tells Myanmar Govt Employees in Its Area to Quit – The Irrawaddy

District level Karen National Union (KNU) offices recently called on non-striking government employees working for the regime in KNU-controlled areas to resignClick here to read…

Public to Boycott Myanmar Junta’s New Year Water Festival – The Irrawaddy

Myanmar could not celebrate Thingyan in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19 and military rule but this year the regime is trying to bring the Burmese new year festival back to life. Click here to read…

Airstrikes Continue After Myanmar Junta Suffers Heavy Losses – The Irrawaddy

Myanmar’s military continues using helicopters to attack villages near the Thai border in Myawaddy Township where its troops are suffering heavy losses. Daily fighting has continued in the Karen State border district for months amid heavy junta reinforcements, artillery and airstrikes. Click here to read…

Youths in Sittwe mark Right to Truth Day with calls for justice, human rights – BNI Online

Commemorated annually on March 24, the UN-recognised day is known in longform as International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. Click here to read…

Nepal
(Editorial)Ties consolidated- Himalaya

Wang’s visit was, thus, a good opportunity for Nepal to clarify Nepal’s position that any development assistance from a country would be utilised solely for development purposes and that it would never accept any project with political and other conditions. Click here to read…

NC to tie up with ruling allies for civic polls- Himalaya

The central working committee of the ruling Nepali Congress today unanimously decided to forge poll alliance with other coalition partners in local elections scheduled for May 13. Click here to read…

Nepal, Republic of South Sudan establish diplomatic relations- Himalaya

Nepal and the Republic of South Sudan have established diplomatic relations. With this, the number of countries with which Nepal has bilateral diplomatic relations has reached 175. Click here to read…

Mahat-led delegation meets PM Deuba- Himalaya

A delegation from Nuwakot led by Nepali Congress Spokesperson Prakash Sharan Mahat today called on Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and apprised him of several issues facing the district. Click here to read…

Congress comes up with formal decision on poll alliance- Kathmandu Post

Members of rival Nepal Congress faction fear that alliance with communists could harm the party’s voter base. Click here to read…

Security printing will give sense of independence in printing sector: Communications Minister Karki- Himalaya

Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki said the purpose of making the country independent in the printing sector is being gradually fulfilled. Click here to read…

Reaction to Wang Yi’s Nepal visit in Chinese media- Nepali Times

Delayed and toned-down reaction to Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s trip to Nepal seems deliberate. Click here to read…

Pakistan
‘Stars not aligned’ for MQM announcement: Dawn

While the combined opposition tried with all its might to prevail upon the party to announce a decision there and then, MQM-P avoided making a definitive statement at such a late hour and announced that it would make its decision public the next day. Click here to read…

PM forbids PTI MNAs from attending NA session on no-trust voting: The Express Tribune

Prime Minister Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. has barred the ruling PTI lawmakers from attending the National Assembly session on the day of voting on no-trust motion, which is likely to be held in the first week of April. Click here to read…

‘Pakistan can play role for diplomatic solution to war’, PM tells Ukrainian president

Prime Minister Imran Khan has told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that non-partisan countries like Pakistan are in a position to play a helpful role in reinforcing efforts for cessation of hostilities and a diplomatic solution in the war-stricken country. Click here to read…

Umpire’s neutrality leaves smaller parties confused: The News

The ‘umpire’s neutrality’ is behind the change of plans by smaller political parties, as they are reluctant to trust the commitments made by the government and the opposition. Click here to read…

Sri Lanka
Can we eat money?’: Prices high, supplies low, despair in Lanka- Indian Express

Sri Lanka is facing one of its worst economic crises, battered by the Easter Sunday blasts of April 2019, two Covid waves and now the Russia-Ukraine war. Click here to read…

Sri Lanka avoids recession in Dec quarter, GDP grows 3.7% in 2021: Business Standard

Sri Lanka’s economy grew at a slower-than-expected 1.8% in the 4th quarter of the 2021 financial year, taking its full year growth to 3.7 per cent, data from the govt’s statistics department showed. Click here to read…

China: Daily Scan, February 25, 2022

State councilor stresses modern market regulation for high-quality development: Xinhuanet
February 25, 2022

State Councilor Wang Yong has underscored improving the effectiveness of market regulation to further boost market vitality and shore up China’s high-quality development. Wang made the remarks in south China’s Hainan Province, where he conducted inspections on the development and supervision of market entities. Click here to read…

China urges U.S. not to harass Chinese students: Xinhuanet
February 25, 2022

China urges the United States to immediately correct its mistakes and stop harassing Chinese students studying in the country, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said here Thursday. Click here to read…

China urges U.S. to immediately cease malicious cyber activities: Xinhuanet
February 25, 2022

China on Thursday urged the United States to offer an explanation for and put an immediate end to its malicious cyber activities, vowing to take necessary measures to safeguard its cybersecurity and its own interests. Click here to read…

China urges all parties involved in Ukraine issue to exercise restraint: Xinhuanet
February 24, 2022

A Chinese envoy on Wednesday called on all parties involved in Ukraine issue to exercise restraint. “In the current context, all parties concerned should exercise restraint, and avoid taking any action that may aggravate tensions,” Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told the plenary meeting of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly on Ukraine. Click here to read…

China to increase affordable rental housing supply, says ministry: Xinhuanet

February 24, 2022

China will work to expand the supply of affordable rental housing as part of efforts to resolve housing difficulties, said the country’s housing authorities at a Thursday press conference. Click here to read…

China to host int’l military medicine forum in March: Xinhuanet
February 24, 2022

The Chinese military will host the Seventh Great Wall International Military Medicine Forum in Beijing from March 24 to 27, a military spokesperson announced on Thursday. Military medical experts from more than 10 countries, including Russia, Serbia and Pakistan, as well as from the International Committee of the Red Cross, have been invited to attend the forum, to be held both online and offline, said Tan Kefei, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense. Click here to read…

25 financial institutions receive disciplinary inspection feedback: Xinhuanet
February 25, 2022

A total of 25 financial institutions have received feedback as the result of the eighth-round disciplinary inspection launched by the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Click here to read…

Asia Pacific not arena for zero-sum game, says Defense Spokesperson: China Military
February 24, 2022

“What the US report says about China’s Taiwan region is a gross interference in China’s internal affairs and violation of the one-China principle and the basic norms governing international relations. We are firmly opposed to that,” said a Chinese defense spokesperson on Thursday. Click here to read…

Digital yuan injects fresh dynamism into Chinese economy: People’s Daily
February 25, 2022

China has rolled out a broad range of payment products to help both Chinese citizens and foreigners experience the convenience of mobile payment with China’s digital fiat currency, or the e-CNY, for small-value payments during the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Click here to read…

China to help enterprises better hedge exchange rate risks amid rising yuan: People’s Daily
February 25, 2022

The Chinese government will work to help enterprises better hedge exchange rate risks as the yuan rises, Gao Feng, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, said on Thursday. Gao made the remarks after the Chinese currency, the renminbi, or the yuan, had appreciated sharply in recent days. Click here to read…

1,273 fugitives returned to China last year to face justice: Global Times

February 25, 2022

The “Skynet operation 2021” brought back 1,273 fugitives, including 22 with Interpol Red Notice and 318 suspects under investigation, with 16.74 billion yuan ($2.64 billion) in illicit assets recovered, China’s anti-graft agencies announced on Thursday. Click here to read…

China urges US to end poisonous legacy left by Trump after ‘China Initiative’ is dropped: Global Times
February 24, 2022

The US Department of Justice announced on Wednesday it has ended the “China Initiative,” a program launched during the Trump administration to target so-called “Chinese espionage and intellectual property theft,” which the Chinese Foreign Ministry said should have been abolished along with the former administration’s policies toward China a long time ago. Click here to read…

Senior CPC official meets Panchen Lama: Global Times
February 24, 2022

Senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official You Quan met with the 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu in Beijing Wednesday. You, a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee and head of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee, extended Tibetan new year greetings to the Panchen Lama and all Tibetan Buddhism believers. Click here to read…

UAE to buy Chinese L-15 supersonic jets despite US pressure: Global Times
February 24, 2022

The Defense Ministry of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced on Wednesday that it is planning to purchase a dozen Chinese L-15 advanced trainer and light combat jets with more being considered in the future. Click here to read…

West Asia Round Up – November 2021

Abstract :

West Asia, during the month, witnessed enhanced intra regional interactions and efforts for rapprochement. UAE took the lead as its Foreign Minister visited Damascus to upgrade the ties and to bring Syria back into the Arab fold. UAE FM also spoke to his Iranian counterpart and welcomed the Iranian Dy. FM and negotiator on nuclear talks in Abu Dhabi. More interactions to follow as UAE agreed to build some power plants and other infra developments in Iran. USA is somewhat miffed as both Syria and Iran fall in the ambit of its sanctions. However, in Bahrain Secretary of Defence tried to assuage the concerns of Arab allies and to assure them that for the US, security of the region was paramount. As for Afghanistan, Washington decided to open its mission in Qatar embassy in Kabul as Saudi Arabia opened its consulate and UAE expressed interest to help run the Kabul airport as all of them continued to provide humanitarian assistance to alleviate the civil strife. Turkey’s FM visited Tehran to work on a visit of President Erdogan. Importantly, UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan made his first high level visit to Ankara and held discussions with President Erdogan creating scope for cooperation sidestepping the rivalry and competition. A $ 10 billion investment fund was also announced for strategic investments in Turkey. Carrying on with its political, socio-legal and economic reforms UAE decided to introduce Civil law over Muslim personal law for the foreigners and expatriates giving a big relief. UAE has also been designated to host COP 28 in 2023. Omani Sultan visited Doha and met Qatari Emir to strengthen bilateral and regional mechanisms. Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited Rabat and signed a security cooperation agreement as Morocco and Algeria remain in a state of conflict.

In Sudan after the military coup and under the international pressure PM Hamdok was reinstalled but the public protests continued.

Indirect JCPOA talks between Iran and the US were resumed on Nov 29 amidst threatening statements on both sides the Europeans and Americans warning Tehran that time was running out as Iranians wanted all sanctions to be lifted and guarantees be given for the continuity of the deal even if there was a change in political dispensation in Washington which is a non starter. Russia and China maintained that the two sides should return to the existing JCPOA agreement.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar held talks with H.E. Dr. Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), who was on his first official visit to India on November 10-11. They exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual concern. EAM congratulated Secretary General for the constructive role played by GCC in promoting stability and prosperity in the region. Both sides decided to convene the next India-GCC Troika Political Dialogue at an early date. The last round of the Dialogue was held virtually in November 2020. Both sides also agreed to further institutionalize the annual meetings between EAM and GCC Troika by signing an MOU in the coming months.

More details …….
Protests in Iraq

Iraq witnessed weeks of demonstrations against the result of the parliamentary election held in October 2021. The election witnessed one of the lowest turnouts. Prominent Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr’s political bloc, the Sairoon alliance won 73 seats in the 329 member parliament. Pro-Iranian groups that suffered heavy losses in the election called the polls fraudulent. They threw stones that were responded with tear gas and fire in the air. Fateh Alliance, the political arm of Hashd al-Shaabi won only 15 seats as compared to 48 seats in the last election. The domestic situation continued to remain unstable including small scale clashes throughout the month.

On 7 November, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi survived an assassination attempt after a drone filled with explosives struck his residence in the high-security green zone in Baghdad. Iraqi officials and military sources have speculated on the involvement of pro-Iranian groups behind the attack. It is however unlikely that Iran is directly involved in the attack that could adversely affect its trade and political ties with Iraq as well as intensify violence on its western border. Iraqis fear that the tension within the Shiite groups that dominate government, number of state institutions and paramilitary branches could escalate into a broader civil conflict in the near future.

New Political Agreement to Overturn the Coup in Sudan

Sudan’s military chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan signed a political agreement with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to restore civilian control of the government. The military leaders were facing intense domestic and international pressure after the government was dissolved and cabinet members were arrested on 25 October.

Sudanese public after months of protest succeeded in pressurising the military to oust the long time autocrat, Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019. The military with support from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt intended to retain political power. However, protests against military control forced General Al-Burhan to accommodate the civilian coalition facilitating the formation of a technocratic government during the transition period until 2023. The dynamics between the military and civilian component in the government has been uneasy. The military after the national election and appointment of a democratically elected government is supposed to leave political office in 2023. The military, therefore, is unwilling to concede political power. It has blamed the civilian government for domestic protests, economic shortages and disrupting the path of the revolution etc and therefore justified the October coup. The coup led to widespread criticism eventually forcing the military to undertake political agreement. The 14 point deal entails the release of all political prisoners. Civil groups have however expressed their displeasure about the peace deal that continues to place the military in the dominant position. In the recent future, the political battle is likely to continue between the military committed to preserving its predominant status and increasingly assertive civilian government.

UAE’s Rapprochement with Syria

The UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan visited Damascus and met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on 9 November. It indicates a thaw in relations since 2011 protests in Syria that quickly engulfed into a civil war. The UAE sided with Syrian rebels to topple the Assad regime and remained a vocal opponent of the actions of the government forces. The Assad regime through help from Russia and Iran has managed to stabilise the state. The civil war has killed thousands of people and displaced millions living as refugees in West Asia and Europe. The economic challenges for the Syrian government have been aggravated. In a major departure from the UAE’s previous stance, the Foreign Minister expressed his government’s interest in preserving the security, stability and unity of Syria.

The visit is seen as an indication of regional efforts to overturn Syria’s diplomatic isolation that could help the country to overcome economic despair. Both leaders reportedly discussed boosting joint investments in key sectors. The UAE earlier in December 2018 reopened its embassy in Damascus and in March called for Syria’s re-entry into the Arab League.

Notably, the US has expressed its reservation against re-engaging with the Assad regime by the UAE. The US State Department Ned Price said that it would not support other states to normalise or upgrade their relations and rehabilitate Assad calling him a brutal dictator. Syria is one of the four states under the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. The US could therefore continue to hinder Syria’s efforts to re-integrate with the international trade network and comity of states.

UAE’s Dialogue with Iran

The UAE has adapted its foreign policy to the changing realities at the regional level. In the recent period, it has opened diplomatic engagement with Syria as well as reached out to regional rivals including Qatar, Turkey and Iran. The UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian held a telephonic conversation on 11 November. Both states called their relations traditional and positive. The Iranian leader called for resolving existing problems between both states. Iran has welcomed UAE’s reconciliation with Syria calling it a positive step in regional cooperation. Both sides agreed that global and regional cooperation should be established to solve environmental problems.

Following the phone call, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani visited the UAE on 23 November and met with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khalifa Shaheen and the diplomatic advisor to the Emirati President, Anwar Gargash. Both states talked about opening a new chapter. The UAE has called for collective diplomacy between Gulf States and Iran by taking measures to de-escalate tensions.

US Approves US$ 650 million Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia

President Joe Biden in early November approved US$ 650 million worth sale of 280 air-to-air missiles and 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers (MRLs). The US weapons firm, Raytheon is the principal contractor for the sale of AIM-120C-7/C-8 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air missiles and related equipment. Saudi Arabia has purchased a US$ 500 million helicopter maintenance deal in September. The US justified the sale suggesting that it would support US foreign policy and national security and help improve the security of a friendly state. Pentagon called Saudi Arabia an important force for political and economic progress in the region. The US-made missile deployed from Saudi aircraft has been crucial to intercept missiles and rockets and protect over 70,000 US citizens living in the kingdom.

The arms deal is the first sale to Saudi Arabia under Joe Biden. Biden as a presidential candidate was critical of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The new administration has eventually adopted the policy of selling only defensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. Raytheon Technologies called the sale consistent with the government’s policy to lead with diplomacy to end conflict in Yemen. The sale does not require approval from the US Congress; however, lawmakers can block the deal by passing a disapproval bill in both houses. Critics within the US has dismissed Joe Biden administration’s claim to improve security. The deal has only benefitted the US defence industry.

Qatar to act as Diplomatic Proxy for the US

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on 12 November announced that its Gulf ally, Qatar will represent US interests in Afghanistan and help to process visas for people trying to flee Taliban control. Qatar under the new agreement would carry out a few diplomatic responsibilities including consular services and providing security of abandoned US facilities. Qatar for years has served as mediating ground for dialogue between the US and Taliban including the Doha Peace agreement. Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani stated that his country would continue to remain an instrument of peace and stability in the region. He mentioned engagement is the only way forward and abandoning Afghanistan is a big mistake. It has to be been what role Qatar would play provided that US officials have regularly met with Taliban figures post-August 2021 takeover.

CEO Designate of NSO firm Resigns

The CEO designate of Israeli spyware firm NSO, Isaac Benbenisti who joined the firm in August 2021 has offered his resignation on 11 November after the group was blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce. On 31 October, Benbenisti was named as the future replacement for Shalev Hulio, the co-founder and CEO of the NSO Group. Hulio has announced that he would remain in the current position due to the need for stability and continuity during the current period.

The firm’s spyware, Pegasus has been sold to foreign governments to spy on dissidents, journalists, diplomats etc. The company reportedly works after the approval of the Israeli Defence Ministry. The US placed NSO Group on the US blacklist in the first week of November after determining that the Israeli spyware has acted contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the US. The sanctions are intended to block NSO’s business operations in the US The firm has defended its spyware arguing that it is sold only to governments to target terrorists and other serious criminals.

West Asia Round Up – October 2021

Abstract:
Iran

At G20 on October 30 the leaders of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the US reiterated their commitment to ensure that Iran can never develop nuclear weapons stating “We expressed our determination to ensure that Iran can never develop or acquire a nuclear weapon and shared our grave and growing concern that, while Iran halted negotiations on a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) since June, it has accelerated the pace of provocative nuclear steps, such as the production of highly enriched uranium and enriched uranium metal. Iran has no credible civilian need for either measure, but both are important to nuclear weapons programs,” while reiterating the importance of a negotiated solution to the current situation “that provides for the return of Iran and the US to full compliance with the JCPOA and provides the basis for continued diplomatic engagement to resolve remaining points of contention. We are convinced that it is possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on return to full compliance and to ensure for the long term that Iran`s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes,” the statement read. They also asked President Raisi to seize this opportunity urgently as it was the only way to avert a dangerous escalation. European leaders have been intervening to resume the JCPOA talks.

As President Raisi confirmed his intent and date in November to return to Talks, FM Hossein Amirabdollahian urged ‘It is enough for Biden to issue an executive order tomorrow and they (US) announce they are rejoining the pact from the point where his predecessor left the deal. If there is a serious will in Washington to return to the deal, there is no need for all these negotiations at all’. Tehran has said its nuclear steps since Trump abandoned the accord are reversible “if Washington lifts sanctions in a verifiable process”.

Iranian leadership and commanders of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) issued statements against Azerbaijan, saying that it is allowing Israeli influence and plots to be implemented in the region, which Azerbaijan dismissed.

Iranian Chief of Staff General Mohammad Bagheri, on a visit to Moscow, pointed to his country’s intention to revive military cooperation with Russia as soon as the restrictions imposed by the UN Security Council are lifted.

Earlier in the month, Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Abdollahian visited Moscow to coordinate on regional affairs including Afghanistan. It also held the Afghan talks with regional countries in the Moscow Format, following the Russian initiative.

Saudi -Lebanon– Pursuant to the criticism by a Lebanese Minister of the role played by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Riyadh expelled the Lebanese Ambassador and withdrew theirs. Kuwait, Bahrain and UAE followed suit. As for Oman it urged all sides to not escalate the crisis. It was seen as the primacy of Hezbollah backed by Iran which has vitiated the relations as Lebanon wades through an unprecedented political and economic crisis. Qatar is trying to mediate.

Ahead of the G20 and Glasgow Summits Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that the Kingdom aims to reach zero-net emissions by 2060 through circular carbon economy. He launched the Forum and the Saudi Green Initiative in Riyadh, which will witness the introduction of new environmental initiatives for the Kingdom and will follow up on the progress of the ongoing programs within the Green Initiative. In his speech, the Crown Prince revealed plans to cut carbon emissions by over 270 million tons per year with investments of more than 700 billion riyals ($186.63 billion).

During his visit to Riyadh the US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking assured that Washington is 100 percent committed to the defence of Saudi Arabia, while urging that cross-border attacks by Houthis into the Kingdom must stop underscoring “We have 70,000 Americans living and working all over the Kingdom. And it would be a terrible thing for any of those Americans to be harmed, in addition to Saudis and all the many other foreigners working in Saudi Arabia,” whose security was equally important.

Saudi –Pakistan

Imran Khan visited Saudi Arabia for an Investment Meet. Saudi Arabia revived its financial support to Pakistan, including US$3 billion in deposits to the central bank and up to $1.5 billion worth of oil supplies with deferred payments. Saudi Arabia had suspended aid last year because of Pakistani criticism of the kingdom’s lack of support in its dispute with India over Kashmir.

However, the kingdom’s renewed support results from a desire to counter tightening military and cultural relations between Pakistan and Turkey as well as Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban in the wake of the group’s victory in Afghanistan

UAE-Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that he received an invitation letter from Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to visit the United Arab Emirates. The stronger the bond between our countries, the stronger the security and stability in the entire region,” the Israeli PM said. Earlier Secretary Blinken organised a discussion with his UAE and Israeli counterparts to take stock of developments since the Abraham Accords were signed a year ago. However, Foreign Minister Bin Zayed also said, during a joint news conference with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, in Washington DC, that there could be no talk of peace in the Middle East if Israel and the Palestinians were not “on talking terms”. He stressed that a more successful UAE-Israeli relationship would encourage both Israelis and Palestinians to see “that this path works, that this path is worth not only investing in but also taking the risk.

On the other hand, surprisingly Israel is claiming to lead the negotiations between Abud Dhabi and Ramallah. According to media reports Israeli-Arab Minister of Regional Cooperation, Issawi Frej, has revealed that a possible reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and UAE would be announced soon

Israeli PM Naftali Bennet visited Russia to meet President Putin and discussed bilateral and regional issues. Russia reportedly allowed limited Israeli strikes in Syria

Algeria- Morocco-France

Algeria, which has long supported the Palestinian cause and opposed Morocco’s normalisation of ties with Tel Aviv, cut diplomatic ties with Rabat on August 24 over “hostile actions”, including alleged spying on its officials. Algeria has rejected attending roundtable talks on Western Sahara, considering the roundtable format “deeply unbalanced and counterproductive”, as per its Western Sahara Envoy Amar Belani . “We confirm our formal and irreversible rejection of the so-called roundtable format,” Belani asserted, warning that this format would thwart United Nations (UN) Envoy Staffan De Mistura’s efforts.

Belanialso denied reports that visiting Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan had discussed the dispute between Algeria and Morocco during his visit to Algiers. The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said the minister’s visit aimed to “strengthen joint cooperation” including bilateral political cooperation that supports regional security and stability as well as “the latest regional and international developments”.

France and Algeria’s relations again got entangled amidst controversy observe the statements by French President when Algiers refused permission to Paris to use its air space as well as two of ministries stopped using French language. French President, Emmanuel Macron, reported by Le Monde newspaper, considered that Algeria was built after its independence in 1962 on a “memory revenue” established by the “political-military regime.” He also questioned the existence of an Algerian nation before French colonialism. Macron regretted his unintended statement.

Turkey US

Biden and Erdogan met in Rome to try to repair the damaging relationship between the two NATO allies. They discussed F16 and Turkey’s acquisition of Russian S 400 air defence system.

West Asian Economic Forum-The QUARTET

During Dr S Jaishankar’s visit to Israel the foreign ministers of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, India and the US held a hybrid meeting to bolster coordination. Following the meeting, Lapid said he agreed with his counterparts to establish a forum for economic cooperation. This is being seen as a highly significant development and possibly yet another QUAD.

Lebanon

US Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives introduced a resolution on expressing solidarity with the Lebanese people and the continued efforts to form a secure, independent, and democratic Lebanon. The lawmakers stressed that security, sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Lebanon is in the interest of the United States and its allies in the region. They underlined the US robust assistance for Lebanon, including training and equipment provided for the Lebanese Armed Forces, which it described as the sole institution entrusted with the defence of the sovereignty of Lebanon. The bill accused Iran of undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty and its history as a US partner and democratic actor in the Middle East.

Palestine

The US will engage Israel seeking more information about the designation of six Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organizations, State Department spokesperson Ned Price claiming that Washington was not given advance warning of the designation, a move that drew criticism from the United Nations and human rights watchdogs.
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said that the Biden administration intends to press ahead with its plan to reopen the Jerusalem consulate that traditionally engaged with Palestinians, despite Israeli opposition to such a move, Reuters reports.

India –
EAM’s visit to Israel

During the first ever dehyphenated visit of an Indian Foreign Minister to Israel the two sides agreed to start the negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). They have also decided to form a Task Force to formulate a comprehensive ten-year roadmap to identify new areas of defence cooperation at the 15th meeting of the India-Israel Joint Working Group (JWG) on bilateral defence cooperation held in Tel Aviv. Indian Air Force a also participated in the “Blue Flag “exercises in Israel along with many other countries. The two sides reviewed the progress made in the military-to-military engagements, including exercises and industry cooperation. The co-chairs were also apprised of the progress made by the Sub Working Groups (SWG) on Defence Procurement & Production and Research & Development.
It was also decided to form an SWG on Defence Industry Cooperation and in this regard, a document on Terms of Reference was signed between the two sides. The formation of this SWG would enable efficient utilisation of bilateral resources, effective flow of technologies and sharing industrial capabilities. It was also decided to schedule the Service level Staff talks in a specific time frame.

India -UAE

UAE’s Minister of State for Trade visited India and had wide ranging discussions. During the visit it was decided to finalise a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries.

MOS to Sudan and South Sudan

Shri V Muraleedharan visited Sudan and South Sudan to follow up on bilateral relations and enhancing engagement across the spectrum. However, Sudan witnessed the overthrow of the civilian government by the military junta that may have an impact on the eventual outcomes.

PM Modi met Saudi Crown Prince

Mohammed bin Salman on the side lines of the G20 in Rome and discussed wide ranging issues of mutual interest.

Some more details…
FM S. Jaishankar’s visit to Israel

Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visited Israel from 17 to 21 October after invitation from alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. He met with President Issac Herzog and Prime Minister Naftali Bennet and prepared a roadmap for enriching the strategic ties and exploring new areas of bilateral collaboration.

Jaishankar interacted with Israeli academics, Indian origin Jewish community, business community leaders and Indian workers and students. He also visited the Talpiyot cemetery to pay respect to Indian soldiers who died in the region during First World War. Notably around 900 Indian soldiers are interred in cemeteries in Jerusalem, Ramle and Haifa.

India’s bilateral relations with Israel have been upgraded to strategic partnership during the visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2017. Both states are keen to expand knowledge based partnership, innovation, research and boosting the Make in India initiative.

Israel UAE sign Space Agreement

Israel’s Minister of Science, Technology and Space, Orit Farkash Hacohen and UAE’s Minister of State for Advanced Technology, Sarah Al Amiri signed space agreement during World Space Week, part of Dubai Expo to enhance cooperation in scientific research, space exploration and knowledge transfer. The UAE Space Agency and Israel Space Agency signed agreement on two key construction projects i.e. Beresheet 2 moon mission and joint scientific research based on the Israeli-French satellite Venus and its data. The Beresheet 2 deriving from the Torah word, “in the beginning” was launched in 2019 to conduct landing on the moon. The agreement on Venus satellite will study the phenomena under earth resources, precision agriculture, desertification, monitoring water bodies, climate change which is crucial for both states.

In terms of space education, Nazareth Space Center would train Emirati and Israeli students about satellite engineering and astronomy. Both states are hoping to expand space research and attempt to determine the exact timing of the moon’s birth.

Israel-Palestine Conflict

Israeli government has announced plans to build new Jewish settlements in West Bank. The Ministry of Construction & Housing has published tenders for 1355 houses in the occupied territory. The Housing Minister, Zeev Elkin, belonging to the right wing New Hope party asserted that strengthening Jewish presence in the West Bank is essential to the Zionist vision.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh called on other nations to confront Israel over the aggression that settlement construction poses for the Palestinian people. The UN expressing grave concern called all settlements in West Bank including East Jerusalem is illegal under international law and obstacle to peace.

The US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price condemned Israel’s push to develop new settlements and objected to retroactively legalise irregular settlement outposts in the Palestinian territory. Price called the settlement expansion as inconsistent with efforts to reduce tensions and ensuring calm. The US however restrained from mentioning any action but suggested that the issue has been discussed at senior levels. The Joe Biden administration has rejected demands by the Progressive Congress members to condition aid to Israel based on its actions in occupied Palestine. Joe Biden has described his administration’s commitment to Israel’s security as ironclad.

Israel in mid-October issued military order declaring six prominent Palestinian rights groups i.e. Al-Haq, Addameer rights group, Defence for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees as terrorist organisations alleging links with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a left wing movement that works as political party and armed group. The Israeli government has claimed the human rights groups as part of network of organisations serving as international front on behalf of PFLP. The military order essentially outlaws these groups and police are authorised to shut their offices; seize assets and imprisonment.

Military Coup in Sudan

Sudan’s transition to democracy was cut shot after the military dismissed the civilian government in October 2021. The democratic transition in Sudan was propelled after eight months of street protests and civil disobedience since December 2018. It led to Political Agreement and Draft Constitutional Declaration facilitating 39 month political transition period formally transferring executive power to the Sovereignty Council and civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The military has displayed uneasiness with the civilian takeover process. Earlier in September 2021, the civilian government thwarted a coup attempt by military leading to arrest of 40 officers. The relationship between the civilian and military leadership has been tense throughout this period.
On 16 October, pro-military sympathisers backed by the army held demonstrations calling for coup. In response, pro-democracy protestors came to streets to express support for the civilian government. The nation-wide public demonstrations have created major unrest in different parts of the state. The negotiations between the army and the political coalition of civilian groups also reached a dead end due to differences over security reforms; army’s commercial activities; formation of constitutional court; appointment of an attorney general and chief justice and transfer of the chair of the Sovereignty Council to a civilian official.

Eventually on 25 October, the military chief and chair of the Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dismissed the civilian government and arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and majority of the cabinet. The coup led to widespread protest including clashes with security forces killing at least 10 and injuring more than 150 civilians. The African Union has suspended Sudan’s membership. The US, European Union and other western states condemned the coup and asserted that it would maintain its diplomatic engagement with the civilian government. The military under pressure has indicated its willingness for dialogue, however political groups and citizens coalitions has demanded restoration of the pre-coup political order and constitutional process.

Saudi Arabia-Houthi conflict

Saudi air airstrikes and Houthi drone attacks have continued in October. The Royal Saudi Air Defense Force (RSADF) on 16 October intercepted and destroyed two weaponised drones. Earlier on 8 October, Houthis carried out drone attacks in King Abdullah Airport and Abha airport. Meanwhile in Marib, around 260 Houthis fighters were killed in three days. Saudi Arabia led coalition has conducted daily air raids around Marib targeting Houthis.

The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken held discussion with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud about the situation in Yemen. Blinken assured the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia to defend its territory. Besides Yemen, the US and Saudi leaders discussed about the status of the nuclear deal and pressing need for joint efforts to ensure stability in Afghanistan and other regional and international issues.

Global Developments and Analysis: Weekly Monitor, 18 October- 24 October

Economic

Fight terror risks in overseas projects with shared intelligence, Chinese ex-security official says

Countries should step up intelligence sharing to protect overseas investments, according to a former senior Chinese public security official, as Beijing faces greater risks to its belt and road projects. “In the face of challenges, countries need to establish a concept of mutual security,” Chen Zhimin, China’s vice-minister for public security until 2017, told a panel organised by the Beijing-backed Boao Forum in Changsha, Hunan province, on Oct 25. “[Nations should] agree to share intelligence, rules, education and experiences – including hi-tech and big data components – on security matters, in order to achieve a new model of global development,” said Chen, also a former vice-minister of internet regulators the Cyberspace Administration of China. He is currently a member of the country’s top advisory body. China’s latest five-year plan identified “protecting the rights and interests of Chinese overseas investments” as a key goal to ensure national “economic security”, acknowledging that there were increasing risks and uncertainties regarding the safety of China’s wide range of overseas projects under its Belt and Road Initiative. Click here to read…

G-7 trade ministers call for ridding supply chains of forced labour

Ministers from the Group of Seven advanced economies agreed Oct 22 to seek to eliminate forced labour from global supply chains, taking a stance seen as in line with Western criticism of China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. The joint statement from the G-7 trade meeting in London marks the first time the group has endorsed import restrictions and other trade policy tools to stop forced labour. The ministers voiced concern about states imposing forced labour on vulnerable groups. While not calling out China by name, the statement follows months of Western denunciation and sanctions imposed on Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. The group also seeks to promote due diligence by companies in order to identify and prevent human rights violations within supply chains. In addition, the G-7 ministers adopted digital trade principles to guide members on promoting the free transfer of data across borders. Ministers shared concerns about multinationals being compelled to keep servers in countries they operate in and called for a ban on forced disclosures of source codes. Click here to read…

China’s SOEs beat hamstrung private sector in profits

China’s state-owned enterprises have pulled ahead of the private sector in profitability this year, as private businesses grapple with an array of challenges including regulatory crackdowns, cash crunches and soaring material costs. Big state industrial companies logged 1.77 trillion yuan ($275 billion) in total profits for the first eight months of 2021, up 87% on the year, compared with a 34% rise to 1.64 trillion yuan for their private counterparts, government data shows. The category covers enterprises in manufacturing, mining and similar industries with more than 20 million yuan in annual revenue from their main operations. If this continues, the state sector could beat the private sector in full-year profits for the first time since the global financial crisis of 2008. The trend has raised alarms about the repercussions of President Xi Jinping’s emphasis on strengthening state enterprises, dubbed guojin min tui — “the state advances, the private sector retreats.” While Xi said in April 2020 that reform of state-owned companies was needed, he also asserted that the sector could not be “denied or diminished.” It also underlines the hurdles to China’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership, which bars members from favouring state enterprises. Click here to read…

Xi’s ‘Common Prosperity’ in Theory and Practice

The publication in the party’s theoretical journal, “Seeking Truth,” appears partly aimed at reassuring investors and entrepreneurs spooked by novel language about “rationally adjusting” excessive incomes in the original mid-August readout of Mr. Xi’s speech, which came at the height of Beijing’s campaign to rein in its internet giants. The expanded remarks still contain such language, but the tone and structure contain some marked differences. Mr. Xi forcefully addresses entrepreneurship right near the top, saying that “common prosperity depends on hard work” and innovation and that law-abiding entrepreneurs should be particularly encouraged. The newly released remarks also warn about the dangers of “welfarism” and government dependence—language that was absent from the original readout. In theory, there is a fair amount for investors to like here: most important, it shows that Mr. Xi understands the importance of incentives—and that the rapidly escalating regulatory campaign over the past year risks damaging entrepreneurship. The speech also fits with Beijing’s long standing skepticism about big outlays for social services, as opposed to infrastructure or carrots for businesses like cheap land. The problem, of course, is that this is all happening in the lead-up to the 20th Party Congress next fall. Click here to read…

China Plans Property-Tax Trials as It Targets Speculation

China said it would conduct five-year property-tax trials in some regions of the country as Beijing looks for ways to rein in real-estate speculation and distribute wealth more evenly. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the country’s top legislative body, passed the tax-pilot program on Oct 23, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The State Council, China’s cabinet, is expected to disclose details in the next few months, including which regions this initiative will cover and how the tax rate will be set, people familiar with government deliberations said. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has long sought to impose a nationwide property tax to curb housing speculation, bring down runaway prices and reduce the financial burden on families already strained by rising education, medical and other costs. But his broad property-tax push has met heavy resistance from within the ruling Communist Party, including both the elites and its rank-and-file members. An initial proposal to test-run the tax in some 30 cities has been scaled back to around 10 cities, according to people familiar with the deliberations. A new law aimed at advancing the tax across the country likely won’t be finalized until around 2025, the last year of the current five-year development plan, the people said. Click here to read…

China’s Indonesian coal imports hit record amid power crisis, Southeast Asian nation now biggest supplier

Indonesia is now overwhelmingly China’s biggest overseas supplier of coal, with shipments hitting a record last month after Beijing loosened curbs on imports to tackle its power crisis. Cargoes of coking, thermal and brown coal from the Southeast Asian nation surpassed 21 million tonnes in September, from just over 17 million tonnes in August, and now account for about two-thirds of China’s total imports, according to customs data. Chinese buyers have been forced to tap other suppliers of the fuel to replace Australian exports banned almost a year ago after political relations with Canberra soured. But hopes that Mongolia could supply more coal – particularly the higher quality produced by Australia and used by steel mills – were dashed as coronavirus pandemic restrictions in China’s neighbour saw cargoes sink below 1 million tonnes, according to the data. Indonesia’s benchmark coal price has hit record levels, bolstered by a surge in demand since June, when Beijing pledged to raise imports in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to head off the power crisis that is now gripping the country. Late last year, China struck a three-year deal with Indonesian miners for US1.5 billion of the fuel as Beijing sought long-term options to displace Australian supplies. Click here to read…

Japan to lobby Saudi, UAE, and other oil nations to boost supply

Japan will urge petroleum-producing nations to raise output and ease the soaring global oil prices that have hurt both corporate earnings and household budgets. The plan to lobby oil producers, in collaboration with the International Energy Agency, is based on directives by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Tokyo also looks to offer state support for affected industries, as officials from relevant ministries met Oct 18 to discuss ways to address the oil price rally. “The government as a whole will respond swiftly to make sure there is no disruption to industry or the daily lives of citizens,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, who attended the meeting. Tokyo will work with the IEA to ask Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other major oil producers to boost output. Koichi Hagiuda, the trade and industry minister said after Oct 18’s meeting that he intends to talk with oil producing nations ahead of the OPEC Plus meeting set for early November. DaishiroYamagiwa, Japan’s economic revitalization minister also attended Oct 18’s meeting. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi spoke by phone Oct 18 with Kuwaiti counterpart Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, asking for the Persian Gulf country’s cooperation toward stabilizing the market including via greater crude production. Click here to read…

Semiconductor giant TSMC’s decision to cooperate with Washington’s chip data request fuels anger in China

The decision by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) to comply with a US request for information has stirred anger and uneasiness in China over fears that Washington could use the information to sanction Beijing, even though the Taiwan chip maker said it will not reveal confidential client information to the US government. TSMC, the single-most important player in the global semiconductor industry, said in a statement on Monday that it will “respond to” a request by the US Commerce Department seeking information from companies in the chip supply chain, a list that also included South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and US chip firm Intel. While the US government said its request was aimed at finding out reasons for the chip shortage – and no Chinese company was directly involved – the move has raised alarm bells in China. Xi Chen, an academic committee member at Peking University’s Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding, said earlier that the data could potentially help Washington impose sanctions on Chinese companies in a more precise way. The decision by TSMC to comply with US sanctions on Huawei Technologies Co devastated the Shenzhen-based company’s smartphone business. Click here to read…

Toyota testing hydrogen combustion engines in race cars

Toyota said Oct 25 it is testing hydrogen combustion engines in race cars as it works toward using the technology in commercial products. Such engines burn hydrogen as fuel instead of gasoline much like rockets. The Japanese automaker said testing the technology in race cars will allow it to collect data and try to fix problems on-site. Toyota Motor announced earlier that it was developing a hydrogen combustion engine, which Ford Motor and other automakers have also developed. Vehicles powered by such engines are different from fuel cell vehicles that use hydrogen to create electricity, and from electric or hybrid vehicles. ”We want to propose multiple options to meet regional needs,” Naoyuki Sakamoto, chief engineer of the hydrogen-powered engine Corolla model, said in an online news conference. Sakamoto declined to say when the hydrogen combustion engine may become a commercial product, acknowledging further development are needed to address its so far limited driving range. Infrastructure for fuelling such vehicles is another obstacle. One advantage of hydrogen engines is that minimal adjustments are needed from regular internal combustion engines, except for the fuel piping and injection systems. The use of hydrogen as fuel comes with some risk concerns, but hydrogen fuelling stations are operating across Japan, with no major accidents so far. Click here to read…

Biden and Democrats Push for Budget Deal This Week as Rifts Remain

President Biden and Democratic congressional leaders raced on Oct 25 to strike a compromise on a domestic policy and climate package, pushing for a vote within days even as critical disagreements remained over health benefits, paid leave, environmental provisions and how to pay for the sprawling plan. Negotiators were closing in on an agreement that could spend around $1.75 trillion over 10 years, half the size of the blueprint Democrats approved earlier this year, as they haggled with centrist holdouts in their party who are pressing to curtail the size of the bill. They have coalesced around a plan that would extend monthly payments to families with children, establish generous tax incentives for clean energy use and provide federal support for childcare, elder care and universal pre-kindergarten. An array of tax increases, including a new wealth tax for the country’s billionaires, would pay for the initiatives. But a final deal remained elusive amid disputes over the details of potential Medicare and Medicaid expansions, a new paid family and medical leave program, programs to combat climate change and a proposal to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Click here to read…

Saudi Arabia pledges 2060 target of net-zero emissions

One of the world’s largest oil producers, Saudi Arabia, announced Oct 23 it aims to reach “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, joining more than 100 countries in a global effort to try and curb man-made climate change. The announcement, made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in brief scripted remarks at the start of the kingdom’s first-ever Saudi Green Initiative Forum, was timed to make a splash a little more than a week before the start of the global COP26 climate conference being held in Glasgow, Scotland. Although the kingdom will aim to reduce its emissions, Prince Mohammed said the kingdom would do so through a so-called “Carbon Circular Economy” approach. That approach focuses on still unreliable carbon capture and storage technologies over efforts to actually reduce global reliance on fossil fuels. The announcement only pertains to Saudi Arabia’s efforts within its national borders. Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates — another major Gulf Arab energy producer — announced it too would join the “net zero” club of nations with a target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The UAE says it is home to three of the largest solar facilities in the world and is the first country in the Middle East to deploy nuclear power. Click here to read…

Strategic

Chinese, Russian navy operation cuts through 2nd Japan strait

Chinese and Russian naval vessels for the first time passed through a second strait in waters off the Japanese archipelago simultaneously on Oct. 22. A fleet of 10 naval vessels consisting of five from each country traversed the Osumi Strait, located between Kyushu and Tanegashima island, into the East China Sea, Japan’s Defense Ministry announced the following day. The same fleet on Oct. 18 moved through the Tsugaru Strait, separating the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, into the Pacific Ocean, meaning it has now travelled halfway around the Japanese archipelago. As well as being the first time Chinese and Russian naval vessels have passed through the two straits at the same time, it is also unusual for such a large number of vessels to simultaneously sail through a strait in waters off the Japanese archipelago. The move was an apparent attempt to put military pressure on Japan, according to a Japanese government source. China and Russia are believed to be trying to counter repeated joint military drills Japan is conducting with the United States and other countries. Click here to read…

Wang Yi offers 5 suggestions on improving China-Japan ties at Beijing-Tokyo Forum

As next year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered five suggestions to guide bilateral relations at the 17th Annual Beijing-Tokyo Forum via video in Beijing on Oct 25. He highlighted the importance of rebuilding mutual trust, upgrading cooperation, managing differences, expanding exchanges and enhancing coordination. Supported by China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO) and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and jointly held by the China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration and Japan’s think tank Genron NPO, the 17th Annual Beijing-Tokyo Forum opened on Oct 25 in Beijing and Tokyo at the same time in dual online and in-person formats. Issues from history, the Taiwan question and other issues bear on the political foundation of bilateral relations, said Wang. He urged the two sides to abide by the principles and spirit of the four political documents between China and Japan, warning that Japan should not be vague on the issues, let alone try to cross the bottom line. Second, China and Japan should upgrade cooperation to achieve higher levels of mutual benefits as the fundamentals of mutual needs and complementary advantages remain unchanged, said Wang, noting that the potential for cooperation is still huge. Click here to read…

Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops

Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government on Oct 25 announced it is to form new armed forces for the country including soldiers from the previous regime’s military. The former Afghan military and Western-backed government collapsed on Aug. 15 when President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan as the Taliban took control in a lightning offensive while the US and its allies were withdrawing troops after 20 years on the ground. In September, the Taliban appointed an interim government in Afghanistan, declaring the country an Islamic emirate. Defense Minister Mullah Mohammed Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, announced the formation of new armed forces on Oct 24, in an audio message released by the Defense Ministry. Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Arab News: “Army is a priority and urgent need of the country. The Islamic emirate would work on forming an empowered army that would be responsible for protecting Afghans and would have the ability to defend the peace of Afghanistan at any cost.” He said that the new army would be comprised of Taliban fighters and soldiers of the former regime. However, there was no comment on whether the formation of the new armed forces would be supported by other countries. Click here to read…

AUKUS spurs French strategic review with tilt toward Japan, India

France is reviewing its Indo-Pacific approach after being blindsided by the AUKUS alliance that scuttled its submarine deal with Australia, a French official said in Tokyo on Oct 19, with Paris keen to strengthen ties with Japan and India. Philippe Errera, the French Foreign Ministry’s director-general for political affairs and security, was visiting Japan with Alice Guitton, director-general for international relations and strategy at the Ministry for the Armed Forces, to meet with their Japanese counterparts and lay the groundwork for a “2+2” ministerial-level meeting by the year-end. France has also been boosting ties with India in recent years. In 2019, the two countries accelerated their strategic convergence with a two-day summit in Paris, which led to joint military exercises and India agreeing to buy French fighter jets under a contract worth 7.9 billion Euros ($9.2 billion). Together with Japan and India, “we note a convergent vision on the fact that the Indo-Pacific stakes are not reduced to military competition with China,” and should include areas such as economy and health, Errera said. For Paris, considered the most proactive proponent of an Indo-Pacific approach within the European Union, the increasingly tight-knit Anglosphere may be a motivation to shore up its own security presence. Click here to read…

Why Dubai plans to build infrastructure in Kashmir

The government of Dubai, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, recently inked an agreement with India to ramp up infrastructure investment in Jammu and Kashmir. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said the deal will see Dubai building infrastructure in the troubled region including industrial parks, IT towers, multi-purpose towers, logistics centres, a medical college and a specialized hospital. “The world has started to recognize the pace (at) which Jammu and Kashmir is traversing on the development bandwagon,” Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal said in a statement. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman and CEO of DP World Dubai, told media in Srinagar: “We are committed to connect Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of India. We know how to do that, we know the obstacles.” No figure for the value of the accord was given but Sulayem pointed out that the investments by his firm will be part of the Modi government’s “Make in India” initiative. This is the first investment agreement by a foreign government involving Kashmir since New Delhi scrapped the region’s special status in 2019. Click here to read…

Myanmar threatens to skip ASEAN summit over junta chief’s exclusion

Myanmar’s junta threatened on Oct 25 to skip an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit after the bloc said that the country’s military chief could not attend over doubts about the government’s commitment to defusing a bloody crisis. Myanmar has been in turmoil since the generals ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a February coup, triggering nationwide protests and a violent crackdown on dissent. Earlier this month, ASEAN – under international pressure to broker a diplomatic solution to the conflict – excluded junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from a forthcoming leaders’ summit. The exclusion from the Oct 26 to Oct 28 meeting in Brunei “broke ASEAN principles”, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun told local media on Oct 25. He confirmed that the bloc had instead invited a “non-political” representative – director general of the foreign affairs ministry Chan Aye. “But we aren’t sure whether to attend or not … Attending it could affect our country’s sovereignty and image,” the spokesman said. ASEAN issued the rare rebuke to Myanmar after the junta rebuffed requests that a special envoy meet with “all stakeholders” in the country – a phrase seen to include deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Click here to read…

U.S. National Security Advisor met representatives of Myanmar’s shadow government

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met on Oct 26 with representatives of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), set up by opponents of army rule, the White House said late on Oct 26. In the virtual meeting, Sullivan reiterated continued U.S. support for the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar and discussed ongoing efforts to restore the country’s path to democracy with NUG representatives Duwa Lashi La and Zin Mar Aung, the White House said in a statement. Sullivan expressed concern over the military’s violence and said “the U.S. will continue to promote accountability for the coup”, according to the White House. Protests and unrest have paralyzed Myanmar since the Feb. 1 coup, with the military accused of atrocities and excessive force against civilians. The junta blames the unrest on “terrorists” allied with the shadow government. Recognizing Myanmar’s junta as the country’s government would not stop growing violence, the outgoing United Nations special envoy on Myanmar said earlier on Oct 26. Click here to read…

Kishida orders Japan NSC to weigh strike capability after North Korean launch

Japan’s National Security Council will consider having the country secure the capability to strike enemy missile bases in response to an imminent attack, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Oct 19 after the group met to discuss North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch. “We reaffirmed that we will consider all possible options, including enemy base strike capabilities,” in a planned update of Japan’s national security strategy, Kishida told reporters. Tokyo is analyzing Oct 19’s launch by Pyongyang with an eye on the possibility that the test involved a submarine-launched ballistic missile, he said. “For the security of Japan and the region, we cannot overlook North Korea’s striking progress in nuclear and missile-related technology,” Kishida said. Kishida and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno were away from Tokyo at the time of the launch for the first day of campaigning ahead of this month’s lower house parliamentary election. Both cut short their speaking schedules and returned to the capital. The prime minister said Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki was on call to handle any problems that arose in his absence. Click here to read…

N Korea rattles from walking skeletons, not sabres

It’s probably no coincidence that North Korea’s test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Oct 19 came just as the country’s military was reported to have begun investigating soldiers’ “nutritional status.” After all, if the “human bullets” who have vowed to protect the leader are getting so few calories it affects their readiness to fight, it makes sense to distract enemies from that sign of national weakness and focus on a new and shiny, non-human projectile that will give the enemies something to worry about. Seoul-based Daily NK reported that it had learned from “a source in the North Korean military” that leader Kim Jong Un “issued an order on October 9 calling for improvements in ‘logistics and soldiers’ health’ during October and November.” This is the period when the military is preparing for the winter months and for winter training. The General Political Bureau and Ministry of Defense in response to Kim’s order are investigating not only wintertime food supplies for the Korean People’s Army (KPA), but also “the state of ‘frailty’ among soldiers due to malnutrition,” the specialty news organization said. Click here to read…

US and Taiwanese officials meet to discuss ‘meaningful’ UN role for island

US and Taiwanese officials discussed plans to allow the island to “participate meaningfully” at the United Nations on Oct 22 in the latest move to upgrade Washington’s relationship with the island. The US State Department said in a statement released on Oct 24 that “high-level representatives” of the US State Department and Taiwan’s foreign ministry had discussed “expanding Taiwan’s participation at the United Nations and in other international fora”. “The discussion focussed on supporting Taiwan’s ability to participate meaningfully at the UN and contribute its valuable expertise to address global challenges, including global public health, the environment and climate change, development assistance, technical standards, and economic cooperation,” the statement said. “US participants reiterated the US commitment to Taiwan’s meaningful participation at the World Health Organization and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and discussed ways to highlight Taiwan’s ability to contribute to efforts on a wide range of issues,” it continued. The talks came just days ahead of President Xi Jinping’s speech at the UN on Oct 25 to mark the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic taking China’s seat at the UN. Taiwan, under the name of the Republic of China, had held the Chinese seat until then. Click here to read…

Taiwan rides soft power wave as democracies sour on China

Taiwan cannot match the economic or military might of China. Yet as Beijing doubles down on its belligerent words and actions toward its smaller neighbour, Taiwan is reaping the benefits of soft power as China’s image declines. Harvard University announced last week it has relocated its overseas Mandarin program from Beijing to Taipei — a shift that its student paper reported was “due to a perceived lack of friendliness from the host institution, Beijing Language and Culture University.” Harvard’s decision could spur other universities with programs in China to make similar moves and comes at a time when countries and organizations are beginning to recalibrate their approach to China and reconsider their view of Taiwan. Some in Beijing appear aware that China has a major image problem — one that is at least partly of its own doing. Three days after Harvard’s announcement, Fu Ying, a former diplomat and current chair of the National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, gently suggested in a People’s Daily column on Oct 21 that China could improve its image abroad. Carefully quoting Chinese leader Xi Jinping throughout, Fu’s column could be interpreted as a subtle critique of the more combative diplomatic posture Xi has encouraged. Click here to read…

EU-Taiwan relations: MEPs push for stronger partnership

MEPs hail Taiwan as a key EU partner and democratically in the Indo-Pacific, one that contributes to maintaining a rules-based order in the midst of an intensifying rivalry between the major geopolitical actors in the region. To step up cooperation, the text adopted by MEPs stresses the urgent need to launch an “impact assessment, public consultation and scoping exercise” for an EU-Taiwan Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA). Members highlight the importance of trade and economic relations between the EU and Taiwan, including on matters relating to multilateralism and the World Trade Organization, technology such as 5G, public health, and essential cooperation on critical supplies like semiconductors. The report expresses grave concern over China’s continued military belligerence, pressure, assault exercises, airspace violations and disinformation campaigns against Taiwan. MEPs urge the EU to do more to address these tensions, to protect Taiwan’s democracy, and the island’s status as an important EU partner. Parliament insists that any change to mainland China-Taiwan cross-strait relations must be neither unilateral nor against the will of Taiwanese citizens. Finally, Members propose changing the name of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan to ‘European Union Office in Taiwan’ in order to reflect the broad scope of EU-Taiwanese ties. Click here to read…

China law tightens land borders amid regional tensions

China’s top legislative body on Oct 23 passed a law to strengthen the country’s land borders amid rising tensions with India over disputed territory and concerns over a possible influx of Islamic extremists from Afghanistan. Under the new law, the People’s Armed Police Force and the Public Security Bureau, which are in charge of maintaining public order in China, can be mobilized to guard borders in addition to the People’s Liberation Army. The forces will look to handle serious incidents, terrorism and illegal crossings in border regions. The law also stipulates that weapons can be used against people illegally crossing borders if they engage in violence, as well as banning the use of drones and model airplanes near borders without permission. The law, passed by National People’s Congress Standing Committee, specifies that infrastructure facilities for transport, communication, surveillance and defense can be built on the Chinese side of its borders. It also stipulates that no organization or individual can build durable structures near borders without China’s approval. A provision on the protection of water resources is believed to have been made with India in mind. The law states that the national and local governments are obliged to take measures to protect the stability of trans-boundary rivers and lakes. Click here to read…

US nearing a formal agreement to use Pakistan’s airspace to carry out military operations in Afghanistan

The Biden administration has told lawmakers that the US is nearing a formalized agreement with Pakistan for use of its airspace to conduct military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, according to three sources familiar with the details of a classified briefing with members of Congress that took place on Oct 22 morning. Pakistan has expressed a desire to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in exchange for assistance with its own counterterrorism efforts and help in managing the relationship with India, one of the sources said. But the negotiations are ongoing, another source said, and the terms of the agreement, which has not been finalized, could still change. The US military currently uses Pakistan’s airspace to reach Afghanistan as part of ongoing intelligence-gathering efforts, but there is no formal agreement in place to ensure continued access to a critical piece of airspace necessary for the US to reach Afghanistan. The air corridor through Pakistan to Afghanistan may become even more critical if and when the US resumes flights into Kabul to fly out American citizens and others who remain in the country. Click here to read…

President Erdogan, cabinet discuss expulsion of 10 allied envoys

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct 25 backed down from his threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors over their joint statement of support for a jailed civil society leader. Erdogan said during the weekend he had ordered the envoys to be declared persona non grata for seeking the release of prominent philanthropist Osman Kavala, 64, detained for four years on charges of financing protests and involvement in an attempted coup. He spoke after the United States and several of the other concerned countries issued identical statements saying they respected a UN convention that required diplomats not to interfere in the host country’s domestic affairs. Erdogan said the new statement “shows they have taken a step back from the slander against our country”, adding: “They will be more careful now.” The envoys from Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the US called last week for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”. Erdogan said – after chairing a cabinet meeting devoted to the crisis – spoke of his “duty as head of state to give the necessary response” to foreign violations of Turkey’s sovereign rights. Click here to read…

Sudan security forces arrest PM Abdalla Hamdok, ministers

Security forces in Sudan have arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several other members of the country’s civilian leadership, the information ministry said, as a military officer dissolved the transitional government. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a general who headed the Sovereign Council, a power-sharing ruling body, announced a state of emergency across the country and dissolved the council and the transitional government. Hamdok was arrested and moved to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the coup, said the information ministry, still apparently under the control of Hamdok’s supporters. The arrests on Oct 24 prompted thousands of people to take to the streets in the capital, Khartoum, to demand the release of the political leaders amid reports of clashes and gunfire. Soldiers were stationed on the streets of Khartoum and restricted civilians’ movements, as protesters opposed to the military takeover carried the national flag and burned tyres across the city. Footage broadcast by the Al Jazeera Mubasher television channel showed protesters moving past barricades and entering the street surrounding military headquarters in Khartoum. The footage also showed soldiers standing by as protesters passed them and marched down the street. Click here to read…

Bangladesh police arrest 450 people linked to attacks on Hindu homes and religious sites in worst unrest for over a decade

Bangladeshi police have arrested 450 people following attacks against Hindus in the Muslim-majority country in some of the worst unrest in over a decade, which has seen Hindu religious sites vandalized and homes destroyed. Authorities logged 71 cases linked to violence during the major Hindu festival of Durga Puja across different parts of Bangladesh, the police’s assistant inspector general said on Oct 18. In the last five days 450 people have been arrested in connection with attacks on puja venues and temples, as well as Hindu homes and businesses, and for spreading rumours on social media during the religious holiday, local media reported. The senior police official added that the number of arrests and incidents could increase as investigations are still ongoing. The United Nations’ resident coordinator in Bangladesh, Mia Seppo, condemned the turbulence on the same day: “Recent attacks on Hindus of Bangladesh, fuelled by hate speech on social media, are against the values of the Constitution and need to stop”. She also called for the government to ensure an impartial probe and the protection of minorities. Click here to read…

EU says to hold nuclear talks with Iran in Brussels ‘this week’

The EU’s top negotiator will meet his counterpart from Tehran this week in Brussels for talks on restarting negotiations over Iran’s nuclear deal, a spokesman for the bloc said on Oct 25. The EU and world powers are scrambling to try to get negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 accord back on track after the election of a hard-liner in Tehran. Iran’s chief negotiator on the deal, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, wrote on Twitter that he would be in Brussels on Oct 27 “to continue our talks on result-oriented negotiations.”EU spokesman Peter Stano said the meeting would involve the bloc’s lead negotiator Enrique Mora, who visited Tehran earlier this month to push Iran to restart full negotiations. Stano said the EU’s diplomatic service was “sparing no efforts to resume talks of all parties in Vienna.” But the Vienna-based talks through intermediaries made little headway, before being interrupted by the election of hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s president and suspended for the last four months. The EU acts as coordinator for the deal that also involves Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia. Click here to read…

How Egypt turned the page with a comeback on the regional stage

Egypt has experienced a decade of upheaval since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, contending with two revolutions, environmental pressures, and more recently the economic challenges of COVID-19. And yet, this most populous of Arab countries, straddling the African and Asian continents, has emerged from the turbulence with a new sense of purpose and a desire for greater engagement with the region and the world. It has been announced that Egypt is a nominee to host the COP27 UN climate conference for 2022 — a distinction that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago. This October not only marks the 48th anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel; 40 years ago on October 6, President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamist extremists during the annual victory parade in Cairo. For many in the Middle East, Sadat’s positive legacy is a work in progress: The Egypt-Israel peace process, Egyptian economic development and political liberalization, the Palestinian peace process, and overcoming the challenge of violent extremism. Egypt struck the jackpot in 2015 with the discovery of a giant reservoir known as Zohr, which has developed into one of the largest single gas fields in the Middle East. Click here to read…

Medical

EMA greenlights new Pfizer-BioNTech manufacturing sites and Covid vaccine formula as it mulls extending jab for ages 5-11

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved two additional manufacturing sites for the production of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid vaccine, as well as a new formula, as it considers rolling out the shots for those aged five to 11. In a statement issued on Oct 18, the EU’s drug regulator revealed that its human medicines committee (CHMP) has given its seal of approval for two additional manufacturing sites for the production of Comirnaty, the Covid-19 jab developed by the US-German partnership of Pfizer and BioNTech. The agency also said that the CHMP “approved a ready-to-use formulation of Comirnaty” with changes to “provide improved storage, transport and logistic options for vaccine distribution and administration.” The new formulation will be available in a phased rollout starting early next year. In a separate notice on Oct 18, the EMA said it has started evaluating an application to extend the use of Comirnaty to minors aged between five and 11. The watchdog said it will review data on the jab, including an ongoing clinical study conducted on this age group in order to make the decision. This will then be forwarded to the European Commission, which will make a final ruling. Click here to read…

China battles new COVID-19 outbreak with eye on Beijing Winter Olympics

Tens of thousands of people in northern China were placed under strict stay-at-home orders on Oct 25 as authorities sought to stamp out a growing COVID-19 outbreak in the run-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics. Residents of the Chinese capital were also advised not to leave the city unless necessary, although regular transport services out of the city continued as normal. China reported 39 new cases on Oct 25, bringing the tally from the latest Delta variant-linked outbreak to more than 100 cases over the past week. The numbers are extremely low compared with most other places in the world, but China has pursued a zero-case strategy throughout the pandemic and authorities are determined to stamp out the latest outbreak with the Winter Olympics just over 100 days away. Several housing compounds in the capital have been locked down, and organizers on Oct 24 indefinitely postponed a marathon at which 30,000 runners were expected. And at a press briefing on Oct 24, Xu Hejian, vice minister of Beijing’s publicity department, advised people against large gatherings and “unnecessary” travel out of the capital. Click here to read…

Some Russian regions shut workplaces as daily COVID-19 cases hit new peak

Russia reported its highest single-day COVID-19 case tally since the start of the pandemic on Oct 25 as some regions imposed a workplace shutdown to combat a surge in infections and deaths. Faced with worsening disease rates and frustrated by the slow take-up of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine by its own population, authorities are introducing stricter measures this week to try to slow the spread of the pandemic. President Vladimir Putin last week declared that Oct 30 to Nov 7 would be paid non-working days but said every region could extend that period or start it earlier depending on the epidemiological situation. Six regions, including the Samara and Perm regions east of Moscow, began their non-working days on Monday (Oct 25), TASS news agency reported. From Oct 28, Moscow will introduce its tightest lockdown measures since June 2020, with only essential shops like supermarkets and pharmacies remaining open. Authorities in St Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, said COVID-19 restrictions would not be lifted until at least 80 per cent of its population was vaccinated, RIA news agency reported. Nationwide, only about a third of the population has been inoculated. Click here to read…

Global Developments and Analysis: Weekly Monitor, 20 September – 26 September 2021

Economic
China electricity shortage: industrial production grinds to halt and traffic lights fail amid rationing

China is in the midst of a power supply crisis that has turned critical in recent days – threatening entire power grids and prompting analysts to slash economic growth forecasts for the year. In the past month, 16 out of 31 provincial jurisdictions – from industrial powerhouses in the south such as Guangdong to the rust belt in the northeast – have rolle d out electricity-rationing measures, triggering widespread alarm among much of the population and plunging the nation’s industrial sector into chaos. On Sept 23, some traffic lights in Shenyang, the capital of the Liaoning province, suddenly stopped working, resulting in severe traffic jams. The local government said during a meeting on Sept 26 that they had to ration power “to avoid the collapse of the entire grid”, according to an article in the state-run People’s Daily. Analysts have pointed to both a shortage of coal and Beijing’s push to meet emission-reduction targets, and they warn that further disruptions risk aggravating inflation while pummeling production. Meanwhile, some analysts are suggesting that the power rationing measures could help reduce demand for upstream raw materials that have been in short supply in China. Click here to read

U.S. grants licenses for more aid flow to Afghanistan despite sanctions

The United States on Sept 24 further paved the way for aid to flow to Afghanistan despite U.S. sanctions on the Taliban, who seized control of the country last month, issuing general licenses amid concern that Washington’s punitive measures could compound an unfolding humanitarian crisis. The U.S. Treasury Department said it issued two general licenses, one allowing the U.S. government, NGOs and certain international organizations, including the United Nations, to engage in transactions with the Taliban or Haqqani Network – both under sanctions – that are necessary to provide humanitarian assistance. The second license authorizes certain transactions related to the export and re-export of food, medicine and other items. “Treasury is committed to facilitating the flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan and other activities that support their basic human needs,” Andrea Gacki, director of the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in the statement. She added that Washington will continue to work with financial institutions, NGOs and international organizations to ease the flow of agricultural goods, medicine and other resources while upholding sanctions on the Taliban, Haqqani Network and others. Click here to read

China’s rare-earth giants forming ‘super group’ in merger for high-quality devt, deal with price abnormalities

China’s rare-earth giants are mulling a restructuring, and a super group in the medium-heavy rare-earth sector is expected to be born soon. Analysts said the move will help enhance market concentration to better guide industry development and contribute to improving competitive edge. China Minerals Rare Earth Co Ltd said on Sept 23 that its parent China Minerals Corp, Aluminum Corp of China and the government of Ganzhou, East China’s Jiangxi Province, are planning a strategic restructuring of rare earth assets. “The relevant plan has not yet been finalized, and needs approval from relevant authorities,” said a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The two groups are among the “Big Six” state-owned enterprises that dominate the industry in China, while Ganzhou is a major rare-earth resource hub where another Big Six company South China Rare Earth Group Co is based. The three parties own mining output quota for medium and heavy rare earth metals of 9,870 tons in total, accounting for 85.9 percent of the first batch of quotas set for 2021. This means that their restructuring will establish a super group focused on medium-heavy rare-earth products, according to experts. Click here to read

China blasts Taiwan’s bid to join CPTPP trade pact

China on Sept 23 said it “strongly opposes” Taiwan’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a day after Taipei applied for membership in the 11-country trade bloc. “There is only one China in this world, and Taiwan cannot be separated from China. We strongly oppose Taiwan’s participation in any official agreement or organization. China’s stance on this is very clear,” Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters. Taiwan submitted its application to join the Japan-led trade bloc on Sept 22, less than a week after China announced its own surprise bid for membership. Earlier on Sept 23, the island’s top trade representative warned that if China were to be admitted to the grouping first, Beijing would attempt to block Taiwan from joining. “China has been obstructing Taiwan’s international presence. If China is admitted into CPTPP ahead of us, it will definitely risk Taiwan’s entry to the trade bloc”, top Taiwan trade negotiator John Deng said. “Taiwan’s application is mainly for our own interests, our companies’ interests and for our own long-term economic planning purposes, and it has nothing to do with other countries’ goals [or with] China’s comments on our application,” Deng said. Click here to read

EU split on Taiwan question as it fears fraying China ties

A China backlash appears to be taking shape in the European Union, where this month the foreign affairs committee of parliament issued a report calling on the 27-nation bloc to begin preparing a bilateral investment agreement (BIA) with Taiwan. The move came after the recent European Parliament session passed an amendment that calls for changing a trade office’s name on the island to the European Union Office in Taiwan, a step that indicates the EU feels the need to “move away from [its] solely economic” relationship with Taiwan, according to the BIA report’s rapporteur. Charlie Weimers, a Swedish politician and member of the European Parliament and the report’s rapporteur, said that by the end of this year preparations have to be made for an impact assessment, public consultations and a scoping exercise so the EU and Taiwan can start negotiations and “deepen our economic ties.” In 2020, the EU was Taiwan’s largest foreign investor, accounting for 38.8% of the island’s total. Yet it accounted for only 2% of Taiwan’s foreign direct investment. The EU is Taiwan’s 5th largest trading partner. The EU first broached the idea of a BIA with Taiwan back in 2015 but later dropped the plan. Click here to read

Sri Lanka’s vital EU trade privileges hang in the balance

When a special five-member European Union delegation arrives in Colombo on Sept 27, its review of a vital trade concession could lead to substantial export losses for Sri Lanka, which has already suffered a steep drop in foreign reserves. The European delegation will confer with stakeholders to learn more about something else many believe to again be in decline in the South Asian island nation: human rights. “They will meet with all stakeholders to obtain information, and verify the commitment made by the government in relation to matters pertaining to human rights, international labor conventions and the environment,” Denis Chaibi, the EU ambassador to Sri Lanka, told Nikkei Asia. The delegation will scrutinize Sri Lanka’s adherence to its commitments on human rights, labor laws and environmental protection, as well as enforcement of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The PTA legislation to counter terrorism and separatism was enacted in 1979 but remains in force and is regarded by many as a political weapon to stifle dissent and debate. The investigation will determine whether the European trading bloc continues to provide a Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) concession on imports that has been highly favorable to Sri Lanka. Click here to read

Lebanon’s inflation rate is worse than Zimbabwe’s and Venezuela’s

Lebanon’s annual rate of inflation has risen to the highest of all countries tracked by Bloomberg, surpassing Zimbabwe and Venezuela, as the financial meltdown in the Middle East nation worsens. The consumer price index rose 137.8% from a year earlier in August, compared with 123.4% in July, according to the Lebanon Central Administration of Statistics. Consumer prices rose 10.25% from a month earlier while food prices rose 20.82%. Lebanon’s inflation has skyrocketed in the past two years as the country’s financial and economic crisis spirals out of control, with politicians doing very little to mitigate its impact. The currency has lost nearly 90% of its value and plunged three quarters of residents into poverty. Authorities have in recent months started reducing subsidies, as most items are now priced at the black-market exchange rate. The central bank is running out of cash and has repeatedly warned the government about continuing subsidies. After nearly 13 months of paralysis, billionaire and former premier Najib Mikati formed a new government that seeks to resume stalled bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund and creditors to restructure the debt. Lebanon defaulted on $30 billion of Eurobonds last year. Click here to read

Chinese official calls for ‘high-level’ security reassurance for CPEC

A senior Chinese official called for “high-level” security guarantees for further high-quality development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), during a bilateral meeting on the development of the major project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). At the 10th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which was held via video link on Sept 23, Ning Jizhe, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planner, said that high-quality operation under high-level security guarantees are needed to turn the corridor into a demonstration project for the high-quality development of the BRI. The meeting, which was delayed partly by the Dasu terror attack, conveyed some very important information about the CPEC’s future development pattern, including the new practical move on joint cooperation in information technology, said Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. As part of the effort to help Pakistan tackle its domestic security situation, it may include sectors such as database development, Liu told the Global Times on Thursday. “If the CPEC is to advance smoothly, it is necessary to ensure that the domestic security situation in Pakistan is stable,” said Liu. Click here to read

UAE, India look to double trade to at least $100B over five years

The United Arab Emirates and India are seeking to more than double non-oil trade to at least $100 billion over five years as the Gulf Arab state works to deepen ties with fast-growing economies beyond the Middle East. The two governments are set to start talks on an economic pact aimed at boosting business, investment and jobs, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani Al Zeyoudi said on a visit to New Delhi for talks with Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal. “Both sides have drawn up a very aggressive and ambitious time-frame and aim to conclude negotiations by December 2021,” Goyal said at a press conference on Sept 22. “We hope to sign formal agreements in early 2022.” The UAE is trying to burnish its credentials as a global hub for business and finance in the face of growing regional competition from Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, the government said it plans to work on comprehensive economic agreements with countries showing high potential for growth, mainly in Asia and Africa. Last week, it said it plans to invest up to $14 billion in Britain. India is seeking better trade links to revive its economy after a deadly second wave of the pandemic this year. Click here to read

Strategic
Joint Statement from Quad Leaders: September 24, 2021

We, the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, convened today in person as “the Quad” for the first time. On this historic occasion we recommit to our partnership, and to a region that is a bedrock of our shared security and prosperity—a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is also inclusive and resilient. Just six months have passed since our last meeting. Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused continued global suffering; the climate crisis has accelerated; and regional security has become ever-more complex, testing all of our countries individually and together. Our cooperation, however, remains unflinching. The occasion of the Quad summit is an opportunity to refocus ourselves and the world on the Indo-Pacific and on our vision for what we hope to achieve. Together, we recommit to promoting the free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law and undaunted by coercion, to bolster security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. We stand for the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity of states. We commit to work together and with a range of partners. Click here to read

Kissinger’s ‘secret’ China trip recalled as Wall Street veteran meets key Chinese leaders, visits Xinjiang

As official US-China exchanges slowed amid rising tensions, a Wall Street veteran visited Beijing for talks with a top leader – acting as a powerful backchannel for the two nations, the Post has learned. John Thornton, executive chairman of Barrick Gold Corp and a former Goldman Sachs president, met Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng in Beijing in late August, according to a person familiar with the details of the meeting. The key issues discussed included climate change, Xinjiang and conditions for resuming bilateral talks. Thornton, also co-chair of the China-US Financial Roundtable, acted as an unofficial channel for US-China exchanges during his six-week trip, which included a three-week stay in Shanghai before his meetings with senior Chinese officials in the capital in late August. This was followed by a week-long trip to Xinjiang, the far-western region where the US accuses China of having committed genocide of the ethnic minority Uygur population. Thornton was given unprecedented access at a time when China is still largely closed to most foreigners since the Covid-19 pandemic first broke out. “Thornton’s trip was similar in nature to [Henry] Kissinger’s secret trip to China [in 1971],” said the person familiar with the matter, requesting anonymity. Click here to read

Russia’s Lavrov says Taliban recognition ‘not on the table’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sept 25 that international recognition of the Taliban was not currently under consideration. Lavrov was speaking on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders in New York for the U.N. General Assembly. His comments come after the Taliban nominated a U.N. envoy, setting up a showdown over Afghanistan’s seat at the world body. “The question of international recognition of the Taliban at the present juncture is not on the table,” Lavrov told a news conference. Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on Sept 26 nominated the Islamist group’s Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s U.N. ambassador. The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last month. Ghulam Isaczai, the current U.N. ambassador who represents the Afghan government ousted by the Taliban, has also asked to renew his U.N. accreditation. Russia is a member of a nine-member U.N credentials committee – along with China and the United States – which will deal with the competing claims on Afghanistan’s U.N. seat later this year. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that the Taliban’s desire for international recognition is the only leverage other countries have to press for inclusive government and respect for rights, particularly for women, in Afghanistan. Click here to read

No crime and no punishment as Meng Wanzhou admits wrongdoing without guilt

US prosecutors depict the deal that allowed Meng Wanzhou to leave Canada and fly home to China as a victory – but if so, it is an odd one after so much thwarted effort to secure her for trial. Ultimately, the Huawei Technologies Co executive has been convicted of no crime, will serve no sentence and pay no penalty. Instead, Meng admits wrongdoing without admitting guilt. “In entering into the deferred prosecution agreement, Meng has taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution,” said acting US attorney Nicole Boeckmann in a press release. A deferred prosecution agreement typically includes both an admission of wrongdoing, and a requirement for some sort of cooperation from the accused, in return for the dropping of charges at a future date. Meng’s deal includes admissions that she lied to HSBC, but that is as far as her obligations go – there is no cooperation requirement. The deal is a scant five pages long. The main requirement is that Meng agree to a statement of facts (a further four pages long) that describes a meeting she held in Hong Kong in 2013 with an executive for “Financial Institution 1”, identified as HSBC in Meng’s now-dropped Canadian extradition case. Click here to read

‘Finally, I am home’: Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou lands in China to hero’s welcome

Huawei Technologies’ executive Meng Wanzhou landed in China on Sept 25 evening, after nearly three years under house arrest in Canada, to a hero’s welcome cheered by supporters in a homecoming state media portrayed as a sign of a strong country and a diplomatic coup for Beijing. State broadcaster CCTV showed a teary-eyed Meng, wearing a red wraparound dress, receiving a bouquet of roses and being greeted by an assembled crowd waving mini national flags on the tarmac of the international airport of Shenzhen, Huawei’s base, after her flight landed at 9.50pm. Meng waved to the 100-strong crowd and acknowledged the shouts of “Welcome home”. She then gave a brief speech, addressing Zhang Xin, deputy provincial governor of Guangdong, and Shenzhen mayor Qin Weizhong, and beginning by saying: “Finally, I am home.” She mentioned President Xi Jinping twice in her speech on the airport tarmac, referring to him as Chairman Xi. “Chairman Xi cares about the safety of every Chinese citizen, and he also has my situation in his heart, I am deeply touched by this,” she said. The reception for 49-year-old Meng, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was unusually grand even by Chinese standards. Red carpets were rolled out on the tarmac, and state television, including CCTV, provided live coverage for hours. Click here to read

From relentless war to relentless diplomacy, Biden declares new chapter

After two decades of war in Afghanistan, the U.S. is ready for a new chapter — one that will focus on intensive diplomacy and only turn to force as a last resort, President Joe Biden said at his debut address to the United Nations Sept 21. In line with his Aug. 16 speech after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the president expressed his distaste for military arm-twisting to achieve American foreign policy goals, further narrowing down the conditions of the use of force to missions that are clear, achievable and have the “informed consent of the American people.” In his 33-minute speech, the president did not mention China by name once, as opposed to his predecessor Donald Trump who mentioned “China” or “Chinese” 12 times in 2020 and 14 times in 2019. Instead, the U.S. president made clear he does not want a new cold war with Beijing. “All of the major powers of the world have a duty, in my view, to carefully manage their relationships so we do not tip from responsible competition to conflict,” Biden said. ” We’ll stand up for our allies and our friends and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones, whether through changes to territory by force, economic coercion, tactical exploitation, or disinformation.” But the U.S. is “not seeking a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocs,” he emphasized. Click here to read

Taiwan axes symbols of authoritarian past in push to rebrand

Taiwan is undertaking a sweeping drive to remove all symbols of its authoritarian past in a bid to create a new global brand for the island. The latest move is a plan to pull down a towering bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek — the generalissimo who ruled the Republic of China (Taiwan’s formal name) with an iron fist from 1949 to his death in 1975 — from an iconic central Taipei memorial hall dedicated to the former dictator. The step comes on the recommendation of the Transitional Justice Commission, which addresses crimes committed during the era of martial law, or “White Terror.” Since taking power in 2016, President Tsai Ing-wen and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party have ramped up efforts to distance themselves from the past. With Taiwan being squeezed out of formal diplomatic space by an assertive China, the DPP has set out to rebrand Taiwan’s international identity. Some moves may seem superficial, such as changing the name on its passport and Western consulates to emphasize the colloquial name of Taiwan and minimizing references to the ROC — the baggage-laden name of China before Chiang’s nationalist Kuomintang was forced to flee to the island from Mao Zedong’s Communists in 1949. Click here to read

China’s Xi warns of ‘grim’ Taiwan situation in letter to opposition

The situation in the Taiwan Strait is “complex and grim”, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote in a congratulatory letter on Sept 26 to the newly elected leader of Taiwan’s main opposition party, who has pledged to renew talks with Beijing. Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) elected as their leader on Sept 25 former New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu, who said he would rekindle stalled high-level contacts with China’s ruling Communist Party. In Xi’s letter, a copy of which was released by the KMT, he said both parties had had “good interactions” based on their joint opposition to Taiwan independence. “At present, the situation in the Taiwan Strait is complex and grim. All the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation must work together with one heart and go forward together,” wrote Xi, who is also head of the Communist Party. He expressed hope that both parties could cooperate on “seeking peace in the Taiwan Strait, seeking national reunification and seeking national revitalisation”. Chu, who badly lost the 2016 presidential election to current President Tsai Ing-wen, responded to Xi that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait were “all the children of the Yellow Emperor” – in other words, all Han Chinese. Chu blamed Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for tensions with Beijing after pursuing anti-China policies. Chu had met Xi in China in 2015. Click here to read

Attacks on Myanmar military spike following call for revolt

Clashes between the Myanmar military and a growing resistance movement called the People’s Defense Force have intensified following calls for open uprisings by the parallel government formed by ousted politicians and activists. The PDF consists of militias that have been formed throughout Myanmar since May by citizens opposing military rule. The National Unity Government, launched by Myanmar’s democratically elected leaders pushed out by the military in February, has limited direct control over these groups, which each make their own military decisions. About 120 to 300 militias under the PDF now exist across Myanmar, with a total estimated membership of 20,000 to 30,000 fighters, according to experts who have closely monitored the escalating attacks. The Chinland Defense Force, a leading resistance group within the PDF, and a local ethnic armed organization clashed with the military in Chin state on Sept 25, local news outlet Myanmar Now reported. No major skirmishes have broken out in Yangon. But six explosions occurred in Hlaingthaya township in Yangon where many garment factories locate on Sept. 14. Trained militants are believed to be waiting in the city for the right time to strike. Click here to read

Erdogan: Turkey intends to buy 2nd batch of Russian S-400s

President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey still intended to buy a second batch of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, a move that could deepen a rift with NATO ally Washington and trigger fresh U.S. sanctions. Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defense systems. Turkey says it was unable to procure air defense systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms. “In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country at what level,” Erdogan said in an interview aired on Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan at CBS News on Sept 26. “Nobody can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions.” The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate, its chief Ismail Demir and three other employees in December following the country’s acquisition of a first batch of S-400s. Talks continued between Russia and Turkey about the delivery of a second batch, which Washington has repeatedly said would almost certainly trigger new sanctions. Erdogan will visit Russia next week to meet President Vladimir Putin to discuss issues including the violence in northwestern Syria. Click here to read

Iran’s nuclear program has crossed ‘all red lines,’ PM Bennett tells UNGA while hinting at Israel taking action

The Iranian nuclear program has reached a “watershed” moment and Israel’s tolerance on the matter is running out, PM Naftali Bennett has said, calling on the international community to recognize the gravity of the situation. Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Sept 26, Bennett said that Iran had made “a major leap forward” in recent years and that its “weapon program is at a critical point.” Bennett argued that Iran is now enriching uranium to 60%, many times greater than permitted under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which put restraints on Tehran’s nuclear development. It’s “one step short of weapons-grade material – and they’re getting away with it,” he added. The Israeli leader contended that Iran’s nuclear program had now hit a “watershed moment” and words would not be enough to stop its centrifuges. But Bennett said that while the rest of the world either considered Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons inevitable, or they’re just tired of hearing about it, Israel didn’t have that privilege and its tolerance was running out. “Iran is much weaker, much more vulnerable than it seems,” he noted, adding that Israel would not tire on the matter and would not allow Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons. Click here to read

U.S. to Iran: Grant inspectors access to workshop or face action at IAEA

Iran must stop denying the U.N. nuclear watchdog access to a workshop making centrifuge parts as agreed two weeks ago or face diplomatic retaliation at the agency’s Board of Governors within days, the United States said on Sept 27. The workshop at the TESA Karaj complex makes components for centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, and was hit by apparent sabotage in June in which one of four International Atomic Energy Agency cameras there was destroyed. Iran removed them and the destroyed camera’s footage is missing. TESA Karaj was one of several sites to which Iran agreed to grant IAEA inspectors access to service IAEA monitoring equipment and replace memory cards just as they were due to fill up with data such as camera footage. The Sept. 12 accord helped avoid a diplomatic escalation between Iran and the West. “We are deeply troubled by Iran’s refusal to provide the IAEA with the needed access to service its monitoring equipment, as was agreed in the September 12 Joint Statement between the IAEA and Iran,” a U.S. statement to the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors on Sept 27 said. Click here to read

Meet Olaf Scholz, the German Best Placed to Succeed Angela Merkel

A politician who built his popularity on his response to Covid-19 and styled himself as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s true heir is now best placed to succeed her as leader of Europe’s largest economy after scoring a narrow win in Sept 26’s election. Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party won a small majority over Ms. Merkel’s conservatives. But with just a quarter of the votes, he is also the first leading politician in the country’s postwar history to need support for three parties to build a stable majority in parliament. Adding to the complexity of the three-way negotiations, Ms. Merkel’s conservatives have said they, too, would court Mr. Scholz’s prospective partners—the pro-market Free Democrats and the Greens—with a view to forming a government. Under unwritten rules of German politics, the election winner has the first shot at trying to form a coalition but has no guarantee of becoming chancellor if the effort fails. Mr. Scholz said a government under his leadership would serve the interests of workers and focus on fighting man-made climate change. Signaling continuity in foreign policy, he said that he would work for a more united European Union and, like Ms. Merkel, refrain from aligning too closely with the U.S. Click here to read

Mali approached Russian military company for help: Lavrov

Mali has asked Russian private companies to boost security in the conflict-torn country, Moscow confirmed as the Malian leader accused France of abandoning Bamako by preparing a large troop drawdown. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sept 25 private Russian military contractors have a “legitimate” right to be in Mali because they were invited by the country’s transitional government – but he insisted that the Russian government was not involved. Meanwhile, in his address to the UN General Assembly, Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga accused France of abandoning his country with its “unilateral” decision to withdraw troops. With France preparing to reduce its military presence in the Sahel region, the Malian government estimated that “its own capacities would be insufficient in the absence of external support” and initiated the discussions, Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of the UNGA. “This is an activity which has been carried out on a legitimate basis,” he said. “We have nothing to do with that.” Lavrov’s comments came after European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that the bloc’s ties with Mali could be seriously affected if it allows Russian private military contractors from the controversial Wagner Group to operate in the country. Click here to read

Sudan transitional government says coup attempt has failed

Sudanese authorities have reported a failed attempt to overthrow the country’s transitional government, blaming “military officers and civilians” from the former government of deposed President Omar al-Bashir. Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok addressed the attempted coup, which took place early on Sept 21, as “an extension of previous attempts” to overthrow the transitional government created after al-Bashir was removed from power in 2019 by the military follow months of mass protests against his rule. “They tried to take advantage of the situation in different towns by closing the ports and the roads. They took advantage of the national crisis and tried to stop us from moving forward during this transitional period,” Hamdok said. Earlier on Sept 21, Information Minister Hamza Baloul said military officers and civilians linked to al-Bashir had attempted a coup but were swiftly brought under control. “We brought under control a coup attempt by military officers early Sept 21,” Baloul said. Authorities “have arrested leaders of the failed plot, which involved military officers and civilians belonging to the defunct regime”, he added. The military said “most” of those involved in the coup attempt had been arrested, including 11 officers. Click here to read

Medical
Pfizer begins study of oral drug for prevention of COVID-19

Pfizer said on Sep 27 it has started a mid-to-late-stage study testing its investigational oral antiviral drug for the prevention of COVID-19 infection among those who have been exposed to the virus. The company and its rivals, including US-based Merck & Co and Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG, have been racing to develop the first antiviral pill for COVID-19. Pfizer said it would study the drug, PF-07321332, in up to 2,660 healthy adult participants aged 18 and older who live in the same household as an individual with a confirmed symptomatic COVID-19 infection. The trial would test PF-07321332 with a low dose of ritonavir, an older medication widely used in combination treatments for HIV infection. Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said earlier this month they had begun enrolling patients in a late-stage trial of their experimental drug molnupiravir for prevention of COVID-19 infection. Pfizer had also said earlier this month it started a mid-to-late-stage trial of PF-07321332 for the treatment of COVID-19 in non-hospitalised, symptomatic adult patients. Click here to read

US authorizes Pfizer booster for the elderly and high-risk

The US on Sept 22 authorized the use of boosters of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged over 65, as well as adults at high risk of severe disease and those in high-exposure jobs. The announcement means a significant part of the population, amounting to tens of millions of Americans, are now eligible for a third shot six months after their second. “Today’s action demonstrates that science and the currently available data continue to guide the FDA’s decision-making for COVID-19 vaccines during this pandemic,” said Janet Woodcock, acting head of the Food and Drug Administration, in a statement. The decision was expected and came after an independent expert panel convened by the regulatory agency last week voted in favor of recommending the move. The panel, however, rejected an initial plan by the White House to fully approve Pfizer boosters to everyone aged 16 and over, in what amounted to a rare rebuke of President Joe Biden’s administration. The group of vaccinologists, infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists concluded that the benefit-risk balance differed for younger people, especially young males who are more susceptible to myocarditis. Click here to read

New York hospitals face staff shortages as COVID-19 vaccine mandate kicks in

New York hospitals were preparing to fire thousands of healthcare workers for not complying with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate taking effect on Sep 27, with some in the upstate region curtailing services to cope with staff shortages. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference that hospitals in the city were not seeing a major impact from the mandate, but that he was worried about other areas of the state where vaccination rates are lower. Catholic Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in Western New York, had said it would postpone some elective surgeries on Sept 27 as it works to boost its vaccination rate, which reached 90 per cent of workers as of Sept 26 afternoon. New York’s state health department issued an order last month mandating that all healthcare workers receive at least their first COVID-19 shot by Sep 27, triggering a rush by hospitals to get their employees inoculated. Of the 43,000 employees at the New York City’s 11 public hospitals, about 5,000 were not vaccinated, Dr. Mitchell Katz, head of NYC Health + Hospitals, said at the news conference. Click here to read

Japan on track to see state of emergency lifted on schedule

The government plans to lift the COVID-19 state of emergency for all 19 prefectures that will end on Sept. 30 as scheduled, sources said. It wants to avoid issuing pre-emergency measures for those prefectures once the emergency ends since the infection situation in Japan has been recently improving. “I think that we can lift the state of emergency at the end of September if the current infection situation continues (to trend downward),” health minister Norihisa Tamura said during a Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) TV debate program on Sept. 26. The government will effectively decide on its plan at a Sept. 27 meeting to be attended by ministers responsible for responding to the health crisis. If the government’s expert panel on countermeasures against COVID-19 discusses and approves the plan on Sept. 28, the government will make its official decision at the task force meeting. It will make the final call after hearing opinions from local governments and experts, with an eye to lifting pre-emergency measures for all eight prefectures and the state of emergency for all 19 prefectures. As of Sept. 23, the hospital bed occupancy rate for COVID-19 patients in those 19 prefectures have dropped below 50 percent, the criteria for lifting the state of emergency. Click here to read

COVID-19 vaccine boosters could mean billions for drugmakers

Billions more in profits are at stake for some vaccine makers as the U.S. moves toward dispensing COVID-19 booster shots to shore up Americans’ protection against the virus. How much the manufacturers stand to gain depends on how big the rollout proves to be. U.S. health officials late on Sept 23 endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for all Americans 65 and older — along with tens of millions of younger people who are at higher risk from the coronavirus because of health conditions or their jobs. Officials described the move as a first step. Boosters will likely be offered even more broadly in the coming weeks or months, including boosters of vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. That, plus continued growth in initial vaccinations, could mean a huge gain in sales and profits for Pfizer and Moderna in particular. Wall Street is taking notice. The average forecast among analysts for Moderna’s 2022 revenue has jumped 35% since President Joe Biden laid out his booster plan in mid-August. Most of the vaccinations so far in the U.S. have come from Pfizer, which developed its shot with Germany’s BioNTech, and Moderna. They have inoculated about 99 million and 68 million people, respectively. Johnson & Johnson is third with about 14 million people. Click here to read