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China swipes at ‘hysterical’ US at global security gathering

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China swipes at 'hysterical' US at global security gathering

China’s top diplomat on Saturday accused the United States of violating international norms with “hysterical” behaviour, as a running spat over a suspected Chinese spy balloon bubbled to the fore at a global security conference in Munich.

The comments by Wang Yi further clouded the prospects of a meeting between Wang and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the sidelines of the gathering. Asked by Reuters whether he would meet Blinken, Wang later smiled and declined comment.

Wang was speaking on the second day of the annual Munich Security Conference, which this year had so far been dominated by the global response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the war grinds towards its second year.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris later shot back, saying she was troubled that China had deepened its relationship with Russia since the Feb. 24 invasion and that Chinese support to Russia would undermine the rules-based international order.

The spat over the balloon – which flew over the United States and Canada before being shot down on President Joe Biden’s orders, hit already strained relations and at a time when the West is closely watching Beijing’s response to the Ukraine war.

“To have dispatched an advanced fighter jet to shoot down a balloon with a missile, such behaviour is unbelievable, almost hysterical,” said Wang.

“There are so many balloons all over the world, and various countries have them, so is the United States going to shoot all of them down?,” he said.

“We ask the U.S. to show its sincerity and correct its mistakes, face up and resolve this incident, which has damaged Sino-U.S. relations.”

The balloon spat had prompted Blinken to postpone a planned visit to Beijing. That Feb. 5-6 trip would have been the first by a U.S. secretary of state to China in five years and was seen by both sides as an opportunity to stabilise ties.

On its part, Washington is hoping to put a “floor” under relations that hit a dangerous low in August with China’s reaction to a visit to Taiwan by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

THINKING CALMLY

The West has been wary of China’s response to the war in Ukraine, with some warning that a Russian victory would colour China’s actions towards Taiwan. China has refrained from condemning the war or calling it an “invasion”.

“If (Russian President Vladimir) Putin thinks he can wait us out, he is badly mistaken,” Harris said in a panel at the gathering of top politicians, military officers and defence industry chiefs and experts at the Munich conference.

“Time is not on his side.”

Wang reiterated a call for dialogue and suggested European countries “think calmly” about how to end the war.

Wang also said there were “some forces that seemingly don’t want negotiations to succeed, or for the war to end soon,” without specifying to whom he was referring.

Russia, which has cast its “special military operation” in Ukraine as an existential battle with an aggressive and arrogant West, on Friday accused the United States of inciting Ukraine to escalate the war by condoning attacks on Crimea.

The Munich conference began on Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urging Western allies to speed up sending modern weaponry in what he cast as a “David-vs-Goliath” war for freedom against Russia.

On Saturday, European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen outlined plans to speed up giving sorely needed munitions to Ukraine and replenish the bloc’s own stocks, while Poland signalled a willingness to send MiG fighter jets to Kyiv.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also met Wang at the conference. Berlin has been reviewing its own ties to Beijing since the invasion, wary of its economy’s heavy reliance on the Chinese market.


“We discussed intensively yesterday what a just peace would look like,” Baerbock said.

“Not that you reward the attacker, the aggressor, but that you stand up for international law and for those who were attacked. China is as a permanent member of the UN Security Council obligated to use its influence to secure world peace.”

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

The US Coast Guard and Kiribati police boarded two Chinese fishing boats during a patrol against illegal fishing in the Pacific Islands nation’s vast exclusive economic zone this month but found no issues aboard, a coast guard official said.

The United States is seeking a bigger role for its coast guard in helping remote Pacific Islands nations monitor millions of kilometres of ocean – a rich tuna fishing ground – a move that also boosts surveillance as a rivalry with China over security ties in the region intensifies.

Reuters reported on Friday that Chinese police are working in Kiribati, with uniformed officers involved in community policing and a crime database program.

Kiribati, a nation of 115,000 residents, is considered strategic despite being small, as it is relatively close to Hawaii and controls a 3.5 million square kilometre (1.35 million square mile) exclusive economic zone. It is also host to a Japanese satellite tracking station.

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Washington has flagged plans to build an embassy in Kiribati to compete with China, but has not yet done so.

Kiribati police officers were on patrol with the US Coast Guard as “ship riders” for the first time in almost a decade, between Feb. 11-16, a US Coast Guard Guam spokeswoman said.

“The two People’s Republic of China (PRC) flagged fishing vessels were boarded as part of routine maritime law enforcement activities to ensure compliance with regulations within the Kiribati Exclusive Economic Zone,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed comments.

No concerns were reported during the boardings, she said.

“Both Kiribati officers from the Kiribati Police Maritime Unit and US Coast Guard officers were involved in the boarding operations. This collaboration underscores the partnership between the two nations in upholding maritime law and good governance,” she added.

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The Kiribati president’s office and Chinese embassy did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Kiribati’s acting police commissioner, Eeri Aritiera, told Reuters last week that Chinese police on the island work with local police.

China built a large embassy on the main island, Tarawa, after Kiribati switched ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019. 

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Russia launched 14 attack drones and a barrage of missiles at Ukraine overnight, with air defence systems destroying nine drones as well as three guided missiles over the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, Ukraine’s air force said on Monday.

Russia also launched two S-300 missiles from anti-aircraft missile systems and one air-to-surface Kh-31P missile, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

It was not clear what happened to the missiles and drones that were not downed. 

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Tuvalu on Monday announced former attorney general and fisheries official Feleti Teo as its new prime minister, after he was elected unopposed by lawmakers in the Pacific Islands nation, officials said.

Former Prime Minister Kausea Natano lost his seat in a general election on Jan. 26 closely watched by Taiwan, China, the US and Australia, amid a geopolitical tussle for influence in the South Pacific.

Tuvalu, with a population of about 11,200 spread across nine islands, is one of three remaining Pacific allies of Taiwan, after Nauru cut ties last month and switched to Beijing, which had promised more development help.

Teo received unanimous support from the 16 lawmakers, two lawmakers told Reuters on Monday.

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Teo, who was educated in New Zealand and Australia, was Tuvalu’s first attorney general. He has decades of experience as a senior official in the regional fisheries organisation and has worked with the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s major political and economic group. Fishing is a major source of revenue in the Pacific islands.

“Feleti Teo was declared by the Governor General as Prime Minister for Tuvalu,” Tuvalu’s government secretary, Tufoua Panapa, said in an emailed statement.

Tuvalu lawmaker Simon Kofe congratulated Teo in a social media post.

“It is the first time in our history that a Prime Minister has been nominated unopposed,” he said.

The election result in Tuvalu had been delayed by a month as dangerous weather stopped boats from bringing new lawmakers to the capital to vote for prime minister, highlighting why climate change is the top political issue in the Pacific Islands nation.

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Taiwan’s foreign ministry said its ambassador to Tuvalu, Andrew Lin, expressed Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s congratulations to Teo, adding that deputy foreign minister Tien Chung-kwang will visit Tuvalu in the near future.

Teo is a friend of Taiwan’s and has visited many times, and has said relations are stable and that maintaining ties is the widespread consensus in Tuvalu, the ministry added.

Taiwan previously said it was paying close attention to the election after Tuvalu’s finance minister in the previous government, Seve Paeniu, said the issue of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan or China should be debated by the new government.

There had also been calls by some lawmakers to review a wide-ranging deal signed with Australia in November, that allows Canberra to vet Tuvalu’s police, port and telecommunication cooperation with other nations, in return for a defence guarantee and allowing citizens threatened by rising seas to migrate.

The deal was seen as an effort to curb China’s rising influence as an infrastructure provider in the Pacific Islands.

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Teo’s position on Taiwan ties, and the Australian security and migration pact, have not been made public.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on social media he looked forward to working with Teo.

“Australia deeply values our relationship with Tuvalu, in the spirit of the Falepili Union,” he wrote, referring to the migration pact.

Tuvalu’s ministry would be announced at an oath taking ceremony for the new government later this week, Panapa said.

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