Taiwanese mission in Thailand clarifies President Tsai’s remark
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Thailand issued a statement on Tuesday explaining that President Tsai Ing-wen was not targeting Thailand over the lack of vaccine supplies.
Last Friday, Tsai had said that Thailand was “prioritising” locally produced AstraZeneca vaccines for its own use due to the spike in infections. Thailand’s caseload as of Tuesday had crossed the 200,000 mark.
“The problem is that goods that were supposed to have arrived in June have not,” Tsai had told a local radio station on Friday. Taiwan has ordered 10 million doses of AstraZeneca, which is being produced in Thailand.
She also said there will be a delay in Taiwan’s vaccine rollout due to an imbalance in global supply and demand but said manufacturers are speeding up production to satisfy the rising global demands.
In its statement, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office pointed out that Tsai had not said Thailand was “blocking” the export of AstraZeneca vaccines.
The statement said both Thailand and Taiwan effectively controlled the outbreak last year and now the entire world is dealing with a surge in infections.
It added that Taiwan and Thailand will continue to jointly fight against Covid-19 and promote health and well-being for their people. It also said Taiwan hopes supplies become stable soon so people’s hardships from Covid-19 can be alleviated.
China National Space Administration plans to launch a Mars sample-return
China is making plans for the future development of its space program, including exploring asteroids and the Jovian system, collecting samples from Mars and exploring the polar region of the moon, said an official from the China National Space Administration-CNSA on Saturday.
Xu Hongliang, a spokesperson of the CNSA, said at a press conference held in Beijing that about the year 2025 China plans to launch a probe to collect samples from a near-Earth asteroid and explore a comet in one mission.
China plans to launch a Mars sample-return
mission and a Jovian system exploration mission sometime about 2030, Xu said.
In addition, China plans to launch the Chang’e-6 and Chang’e-7 lunar probes in the coming five years to explore the environment and resources and collect samples from the polar region of the moon, Xu said.
By the end of 2022, China will have completed the construction of its space station, in which astronauts can stay for prolonged periods to carry out scientific experiments, Xu said.
“We should coordinate space science, space technology and space applications, in accordance with the principle of being technically realizable, financially affordable and scientifically contributive,” said Xu.
The development of heavy-lift launch vehicles, reusable space transportation systems and satellite internet will also be the focus of future development plans, according to Xu.
The CNSA released new images taken by the country’s first Mars rover Zhurong on Friday, signifying the complete success of China’s first Mars exploration mission.
Xu said that China has seen new breakthroughs in the country’s Tianwen-1 mission. The probe has, for the first time, successfully completed the interplanetary flight, soft-landing and roving on an extraterrestrial planet.
The completion of the orbiting, landing and roving on the red planet in one mission indicates that the country has come to the forefront of the world in Mars exploration, Xu said.
He also noted that this is the first time that the country has carried out monitoring and communication activities over a distance of 400 million km and obtained first-hand scientific data on Mars.
Asean reports least number of new Covid-19 cases in six days
Southeast Asia reported 23,995 new cases on Monday, lower than Sunday’s 26,435, and the lowest in six days. Deaths were marginally higher at 390, from Monday’s 387. Total Covid-19 cases in Asean crossed 4.36 million and the death toll rose to 85,092.
Philippines reported 6,426 new cases and 57 deaths on Monday, driving cumulative cases in the country to 1,322,053 with 22,845 deaths. The president announced the extension of a soft lockdown in Manila and surrounding provinces from June 16-30 to control the spread of the outbreak.
Vietnam reported 272 new cases, driving cumulative cases in the country to 10,810 patients and deaths to 61. A hospital in Ho Chi Minh City reported that 55 of its staff, mostly from the administration department, have tested positive for Covid-19 even though they have received two jabs of AstraZeneca vaccine. The patients, however, were found with a small number of the virus and are asymptomatic.
Videos show Ocean City, Md., police Tasering, kneeing teens while enforcing boardwalk vaping ban
On Saturday evening on a boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., police enforcing a ban on vaping surrounded and tackled a teen as an agitated crowd gathered. Then, one officer repeatedly kneed the teen in the stomach.
“Stop resisting!” one of the officers yelled.
Later, police used a Taser on another man in the crowd and battled a third who picked up a bicycle.
The incident, which was caught in viral videos, left four teenagers arrested, authorities said. Ocean City officials pledged to review the officers’ actions but also noted in a news release, “Our officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance.”
But the videos left many people questioning whether police needed to use such force over a vaping ordinance.
Many also responded to a separate video, which shows a man on a boardwalk with his hands raised above his head who is suddenly hit by a police Taser. Many sharing the video, which has been viewed more than a million times as of early Monday, said the man was also stopped for vaping over the weekend in Ocean City. Police have yet to confirm those details.
Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in a tweet Sunday evening called on Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to investigate. And the ACLU of Maryland released a statement condemning Ocean City police officers for “show(ing) a complete lack of humanity towards these Black children” and said “these incidents are a manifestation of the white supremacy endemic to U.S. policing.”
Frosh said on Twitter on Monday that he watched videos of the incident and was “deeply concerned.” He added that he had “shared that concern with the appropriate law enforcement agencies.”
The videos are the latest flash point over how police use Tasers. In April, a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minn., shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright, an unarmed Black man, saying she mistook her handgun for a Taser. The officer, Kim Potter, who resigned from the police department after the shooting, was charged with second-degree manslaughter.
The Ocean City incident came in a city that has faced recent questions over its police force’s tactics on its tourist-packed boardwalk. Around this time last year, Ocean City police officials said they had opened a review after an officer was caught on camera wrapping his arms around a man’s neck during an arrest over an open alcohol container. In that incident, the officer appears to threaten the person recording the altercation with a Taser but does not appear to use one.
In a statement shared with The Washington Post, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said the city police department’s office of professional standards is investigating both recent incidents.
“We understand the public’s concern over the videos circulating on social media,” Meehan said, adding: “While the use of force is never the intended outcome, our police department’s first priority is to protect and serve.”
State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, R-Worcester, said in a statement that she had watched the Ocean City Police Department’s entire video of the arrests and emphasized that the individuals detained “were informed of the smoking and vaping prohibition on the Boardwalk, and their follow up violent actions led to their arrest.”
She said she took part in a 7½-hour ride-along with the police department the night after the boardwalk incident and witnessed various violations and arrests.
“In ALL of these incidents, I personally observed the OCPD officers and public safety aides handled themselves with professionalism as they worked to diffuse and resolve the situation at hand,” she said.
On Saturday, authorities said they were patrolling the boardwalk on foot when they noticed a group of teenagers vaping, according to a news release. The officers informed the group that vaping on the boardwalk was prohibited under a local ordinance, except in designated areas. As the group walked away, officers noticed one of the teenagers starting to vape again, officials said.
Police said the man, 19-year-old Brian Everett Anderson, did not provide identification and became “disorderly.” When they moved to arrest him, Anderson resisted, the authorities allege.
As police were arresting Anderson, authorities said that 19-year-old Kamere Anthony Day was “yelling profanities” and “approached” the officers. Although police told him to back up, authorities allege that Anderson continued to approach them and then resisted arrest. Meanwhile, authorities said, 18-year-old Jahtique Joseph John Lewis tried to hit an officer with a bicycle and also resisted arrest.
Khalil Dwayne Warren, 19, was later arrested for standing on private property next to two “no trespassing signs,” officials said. He then became “disorderly” when told to move, officials claim.
Video of the scene shows police repeatedly using force during the arrests. As a crowd recorded the encounters, multiple police officers pushed one of the men against the wall after he grabbed an officer’s bicycle. Soon after, another teenager pushed one of the officers, prompting an officer to knee him and a third to hit him with a Taser.
In the second video, a single young man faced several officers with his hands raised on an emptier-looking stretch of boardwalk. After he lowered one of his hands toward a backpack, police hit him in the stomach with a Taser and he fell to the ground.
“He was standing there!” one witness can be heard yelling in the video. Another said, “You all did that for no reason.”
The man’s mother identified him as 18-year-old Taizier Griffin. She said the video shows her son being hit with a Taser on the evening of June 6 while he was in Ocean City with a group of friends for Senior Week. She said witnesses told her he was walking on the boardwalk with a tobacco vape when police stopped him and said he wasn’t allowed to vape there. Griffin put the vape in his pocket and began to walk away, his mother told The Washington Post. Witnesses told her an officer then grabbed for the teen’s arm multiple times and Griffin pulled away before he, as the footage shows, raises his hands.
“They end up slamming him back on the ground and hogtying him at his feet,” said Griffin’s mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns. “I’ve never seen police do that.” She said her son was arrested and is facing charges, including second-degree assault.
Her son, she said, was “extremely scared” after the incident. “He’s young. That kind of thing would scare anybody.”
The four teens arrested on Saturday, all of whom are from Harrisburg, Pa., were charged with counts including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and second-degree assault. They were released after appearing in Maryland District Court.
Court records did not list attorneys for them.
The videos left many people incredulous of the city’s explanation for why force was warranted.
“Black and brown children should not be tased while their hands are up,” Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County, wrote on Twitter, urging Ocean City officials to review the incident. “Officers should not kneel on the back of a minor. Vaping should not yield a hog tie.”
Published : June 15, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Julian Mark, Paulina Firozi
Oklahoma glider pilot flies around landspout tornado
Oklahoma City native David Evans has been a pilot for about 30 years, but few things compare with what he encountered while flying his glider Sunday. Evans came face to face with a bona fide tornado – and decided to hitch a ride on the upward-moving air around it.
Weather wasn’t conducive for strong thunderstorm activity or tornadoes in the Sooner State on Sunday, but Evans found a landspout, or a borderline tornado that forms in a way similar to many waterspouts or dust devils. That meant it wasn’t born from a thunderstorm or cloud-based rotation, but rather developed from the ground up.
It also couldn’t be spotted on radar, and there were no obvious large-scale weather features that would have clued meteorologists into the chance for tornadoes.
“Realistically, it was more of a landspout, but we sort of have no justification as to why it occurred,” said Ryan Bunker, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla. “We didn’t have any answers.”
Instead, it appears a small, broad surface-based whirl cooked up in the heat of the afternoon sun – as is routine during the summertime.
“I have a little motorglider, and you look for these thermals to stay aloft,” said Evans, who hadn’t been optimistic about the day’s gliding prospects. He took off from Wiley Post Airport on the northwest side of Oklahoma City anyway, hoping to get lucky.
“I motored around Tuttle and Minco, and then I saw some hawks,” recalled Evans. “They’re always a telltale sign of where a thermal might be. I started getting an indication I was getting lift, so I circled in there with them.”
What was a broad, weak, invisible circulation that Evans was riding quickly became drawn into a cloud developing overhead. That stretched it up to the cloud base, causing it to become more narrow and strengthen. Before long, a funnel cloud appeared.
“[The thermal] was raising me up at about 100 or 200 feet per minute,” said Evans. “Then all of a sudden that vapor funnel started forming. It was going down and down and down, but there was no turbulence. I just kept flying around that thing.”
It was unclear to Evans at the time, but apparently the funnel did have a ground circulation attached to it – making it bona fide tornado, albeit a weak one. Winds were probably less than 75 mph, but it did stir up vegetation and hay on the property of Judy Curry.
That would make it an official tornado, similar in formative processes to the picturesque funnel that danced east of Denver last week.
“It was really pretty,” said Evans. “It went from base of clouds . . . it was a rat’s tail-looking thing.”
Back at the Weather Service, Bunker was equally impressed.
“I’ve seen cool drone footage, but you never see someone in their own plane flying right next to a funnel,” he said.
Bunker’s hypothesis is that there was a residual weak boundary of some sort draped across the area, sufficient to enhance low-level spin. That might have helped a tiny whirlwind form while also initiating upward-growing clouds above.
“You can stretch it and get a brief spinup,” said Bunker.
In the meantime, Evans says he’s looking forward to taking to the air again soon – but doubts he’ll see anything so spectacular again.
Japans businesses offering special perks to reward vaccinations
Hotels and department stores are among the many businesses offering discounts and other special perks for customers who get vaccinated against covid-19.
With their revenue slumping amid the pandemic, businesses hope that offering special services to vaccinated customers will boost their sales. There are also hopes that increased inoculations will stimulate overall consumption.
The Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, has seen its occupancy rate fall to 30% of its normal level, partly due to a plunge in the number of foreign guests visiting Japan. Guests aged 65 or older who will be inoculated at the mass vaccination center in central Tokyo are currently being offered discounted rooms starting at 6,000 yen ($54.50 U.S.) per person, including breakfast.
An equivalent stay usually costs 9,100 yen per person. The hotel also provides a leaflet on how to get to the vaccination site.
Mitsui Fudosan Co. operates 24 hotels, including the Mitsui Garden Hotel. It has also launched new services for guests to be inoculated at the mass vaccination site, allowing them to stay for up to 30 hours over a period from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. the following day.
“We’ve worked out a service plan in which people check in early in the morning and leave their luggage at the hotel before going to the vaccination site. Then they relax at the hotel after their inoculation,” a public relations official for the hotel said.
The new service has proved popular, so the hotel will consider offering a similar deal to people aged 64 or younger who are to get a shot at the mass vaccination site.
Some tourism organizations are planning to launch regionwide discounts for fully inoculated visitors. For example, the tourist association for Fuji-Kawaguchiko Town in Yamanashi Prefecture will launch services including a 10% discount on accommodations at its member hotels and inns from June 15.
The Go To Travel campaign, a government measure to support tourism, has been suspended since late last year amid the spread of infections. Therefore, the tourist association is seeking to “woo visitors with similar measures,” an association official said.
About 30 hotels and other lodging facilities affiliated with the association have decided to take part.
Department stores have also seen their performance deteriorate due to reduced operating hours and people refraining from going out, so they too have introduced discount services.
A branch of the Saikaya department store in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, is offering discounts to shoppers who present a covid-19 vaccination certificate. The department store also provides vacant floor space to the Yokosuka municipal government for use as a vaccination site, and it hopes people will do some shopping after getting a shot.
Restaurant chain operator Watami Co. began offering one free drink, such as draft beer, to people who are fully vaccinated. This service is being offered in regions other than those where the service of alcoholic drinks is subject to pandemic-related restrictions.
In the United States, private consumption has recovered rapidly since around the time the vaccination rates of elderly people topped 80%. Therefore, expectations are high that more vaccinations in Japan will lead to greater consumption.
“From around July, when the vaccination of elderly people will have gotten well along, Japan too can expect an increase in consumption, including at restaurants,” said Junichi Makino, a chief economist at SMBC Nikko Securities, Inc.
Myanmars military junta puts ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi on trial
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmars deposed civilian leader, appeared in court on Monday for the start of a weeks-long trial that is almost certain to find her guilty of politically motivated charges.
The 75-year-old is now facing a predicament worse than her 15 years under house arrest, persecuted by a military junta that is determined to keep her isolated as anger and protests rage across the country.
Suu Kyi has been held incommunicado since the military seized power in a coup on Feb. 1, detaining the civilian leader, her chief ministers and advisers. Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party won elections in a landslide in November for the second time, but the military claimed the vote was fraudulent, canceled the result and took over the government.
In the months that followed, millions took to the streets in protest and worked to delegitimize the government through a campaign of civil disobedience. The military regime has responded with characteristic brutality, detaining almost 5,000 people. More than 800 have been killed in crackdowns on street protests and in military operations since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).
Charges against Suu Kyi, however, have been especially punitive. Shortly after her detention, she was charged with possessing and importing walkie-talkies without a license, but the military steadily slapped on more severe charges, including corruption and violating the colonial-era secrets act. She faces a total of seven charges and penalties of up to 15 years – meaning she could spend the rest of her life in detention. Myanmar’s civilian president Win Myint, who worked alongside Suu Kyi in running the government before the coup, has also been held on similar charges.
Suu Kyi, who turns 76 on Saturday, has only been allowed to meet her lawyers briefly on two occasions since she was detained. Unlike her years under house arrest, she does not know where she is being held, according to her lawyers, as she was moved to an undisclosed location after her arrest. The trial is happening behind closed doors, with information only released through her lawyers or state media.
Khin Maung Zaw, head of Suu Kyi’s defense team, said the hearings began around 10:30 a.m. and went on for about six hours. Several prosecution witnesses were brought forward to testify.
Suu Kyi, he added “seemed not very well” but “paid keen attention” to the hearing. Two other cases will be heard before the court on Tuesday.
Human rights groups and foreign governments have condemned Suu Kyi’s treatment, and that of other politicians, activists, protesters and journalists in Myanmar. In a statement ahead of the start of her trial, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, characterized the charges as “bogus and politically motivated.”
“With the restrictions on access to her lawyers, and the case being heard in front of a court that is wholly beholden to the military junta, there is little likelihood she will receive a fair trial,” Robertson said.
Thousands of others who are detained at the hands of the military similarly face slim prospects of a just result. State media broadcasts nightly lists of wanted people, many of them protesters who are described as rioters or terrorists. In the published mug shots, some appear bruised or injured, suggesting torture while in detention.
In a stark example, local media outlet Myanmar Now reported last week that more than 32 young people, arrested for opposing the military coup, were tortured and then sentenced to prison. Their trial, in the city of Myeik, was so hasty that it was in a makeshift courtroom.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, on Friday warned that further bloodshed is imminent in Myanmar, and called for the international community to hold the junta to account.
“Rather than seeking dialogue, the military is branding its opponents as ‘terrorists’ and pursuing politically motivated charges against the democratic leadership,” Bachelet said. “In just over four months, Myanmar has gone from being a fragile democracy to a human rights catastrophe.”
G-7 falls short on climate even with U.S. back in Paris agreement
Group of Seven leaders stopped short of setting concrete measures to limit global warming, an outcome that bodes poorly for key climate negotiations later this year.
Leaders of some of the biggest economies met over the weekend for the first time since the U.S. rejoined the Paris climate deal, with President Joe Biden seeking to show unity on the issue after four years of backtracking under Donald Trump. Yet the final communique lacked firm commitments on stopping coal use, raising money to help developing countries, and shifting away from polluting cars.
The group backed away from an initial plan to set a firm date to stop burning the dirtiest fossil fuel, despite an effort by the U.K. hosts to do so, though it did make a new commitment to ending overseas investment in coal. The final text recognized that coal power is “the single biggest cause” of greenhouse gases. But it only promised to “rapidly scale-up technologies and policies” in order to stop burning the fuel without capturing carbon dioxide in the next decade, in line with the countries’ individual targets.
The G-7 meeting sets the tone before 197 countries gather in Scotland in November for crucial climate talks hosted by Britain. U.S. and U.K. leaders have called the gathering the last chance to set a plan to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The British government is hoping the summit will deliver an agreement by all countries to abandon coal power, with the G-7 leading the way.
“The G-7 have failed to set us up for a successful COP26,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.
The nations also watered down a proposal to boost electric vehicles by deciding against a target for making sure most new cars sold are greener vehicles. And they failed to deliver on their decade-old promise to mobilize $100 billion a year in funding to help poorer countries tackle climate change. Instead, the statement reiterated a promise to reach the milestone, even though it was supposed to have been achieved last year.
“We didn’t see a clear signal from this G-7 meeting as to how the delivery of the $100 billion will be put in place,” said Patricia Espinosa, head of the United Nations climate change secretariat, in an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Monday. “That’s actually unfortunate.”
Published : June 15, 2021
By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Jess Shankleman
NATO expands focus to China, a win for Biden in his first trip to the battered alliance
BRUSSELS – NATO leaders on Monday agreed to pivot their alliance to a more confrontational stance toward China, a landmark shift as President Joe Biden sought to boost and reorient the organization after the eruptions and conflict that marked the Trump era.
For the alliance’s battered leaders, it was already victory enough that they were meeting with a U.S. president who was not threatening to pull out of NATO on the spot. And at a closed-door meeting that was the first NATO summit since former president Donald Trump left office, leaders mostly set aside remaining divisions to embrace each other after coming through four turbulent years.
Almost all the leaders used their brief speaking time to declare delight that the United States “was back,” according to two officials who listened to the discussions, a possible sign that Biden’s first foreign trip as president may be succeeding in reassuring shaky European allies – or at least that expectations were low.
The meeting “was like the first day back at school, seeing all your old friends again,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told fellow leaders, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The discussion was a sharp expansion of the defense alliance’s efforts to confront Beijing after China has for years played almost no part in the group’s activities. Allies agreed that “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order.”
“I think that there is a growing recognition over the last couple of years that we have new challenges,” Biden said during a sit-down discussion with Stoltenberg. “And we have Russia that is not acting in a way that is consistent with what we had hoped, and as well as China,” Biden said. He added that members of the Group of Seven had “stepped up as well,” an apparent reference to a new willingness among the economic club to criticize some aspects of Chinese behavior.
After the meeting, Stoltenberg said it was an achievement for the alliance to start pivoting toward China. “It’s not about moving NATO to Asia,” he said. But, he added, “we need to address the challenges that the rise of China poses to our security even though many allies have a lot of economic ties with China.”
The notion of shifting NATO’s attention at least somewhat to China extends the theme of Biden’s European trip, after he also tried to sharpen China-related discussions at the Group of Seven summit in Britain. Biden has repeatedly cast the existential struggle of the current generation as one between democracies and autocracies such as China and Russia, and he reiterated that concern at a news conference Monday in Britain before departing for Brussels.
“I pointed out we have to prove to the world and to our own people that democracy can still prevail against the challenges of our time,” Biden said in a news conference late Monday. “This is going to be looked at 25 years from now as whether or not we stepped up to the challenge.”
Although the NATO leaders signed off on the sharper language on China, disagreements remained about the best role for a group that has traditionally focused on Russia and direct threats to NATO countries, such as terrorism.
Just a few years ago, talk about Beijing at NATO was nearly nonexistent. Even to raise the issue in NATO hallways was taboo, with some members wary that doing so would push relations with the country into a Cold War-era framework of superpower rivalry.
But China has become more aggressive on the world stage and Washington has become more hawkish toward Beijing. Trump pushed the organization to be more confrontational. Biden has continued the effort, and even accelerated it.
Advocates of the sharper approach say that China is active in the Arctic and that the country is increasingly exploiting its technological and economic power to undermine democracies.
“China is increasing its expansion, its influence around the world, and it’s increasingly running up against NATO,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday at a forum organized by the German Marshall Fund that ran alongside the summit. “We need to make sure that as an alliance, even though we’re much more Atlantic than Pacific, we are aware of the global influences the Chinese have.”
But not every NATO country is fully on board with confronting China more forcefully. Some such as Hungary have friendly relations with China and seek investments from Beijing. Others such as Germany and other big European powers fall in the middle, believing there is a balance between the need to work with Beijing to fight climate change and the need to rein in its global ambitions. Still others worry that too much focus on China could distract from the alliance’s historic central mission of defending against Russia.
At the G-7 summit, too, the question of how vigorously to call out China remained a point of division, with Germany, Italy and Japan expressing some reluctance to go as far as the Biden administration hoped.
The sharpest discussions inside the meeting were actually with French President Emmanuel Macron, who in 2019 declared the “brain-death” of NATO under Trump. Macron took a tough line against increasing funding for NATO’s central operations, which are a rounding error compared to the overall defense spending of the alliance. Other countries had hoped this could be a symbolic way to move beyond the divisions of the Trump era. They eventually agreed to increase the budget – but to put off a decision on the final figures until later.
Afterward, Macron shrugged off the fight, saying that leaders had acknowledged his push for Europe’s “strategic autonomy,” and that in the end, “that’s enough for me.”
In a statement Sunday as the summit wound down, Trump criticized the alliance, arguing the United Sates was getting a bad deal.
“So much USA money has been given away to the ‘Club,’ as President Macron of France likes to call it, and to NATO, despite the fact that those countries have taken economic advantage of the United States for many years-until I came along,” Trump wrote. “Not fair to America, or the American taxpayer!”
Still, the moment of good feelings was even joined by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of his first meeting with the new U.S. president, which was set to be Biden’s first tough discussion of his inaugural international tour as the occupant of the Oval Office. Erdogan, who can be combative at NATO summits, was mild-mannered on Monday, opting for a friendlier approach, according to the officials who listened to the discussion, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly about what happened behind closed doors.
The two leaders met for well over an hour, in a smaller setting and then a larger one. The Turkish government released photos of the men bumping elbows, seeming in good humor, and when reporters were briefly ushered into the room at the end of their discussion, Biden called it “a very good meeting.”
During the presidential campaign Biden called Erdogan an “autocrat,” and Ankara has been disruptive at NATO and elsewhere. The meeting could serve as a preview of sorts for Biden’s meeting Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the final stop of his eight-day, three-country trip.
Leaders agreed that the treaty’s Article 5 provision – which states that an attack on one allied nation is an attack on all – could be applied to cyber and ransomware attacks.
“The notion is that if someone gets hit by a massive cyberattack, and they need technical or intelligence support from another ally to be able to deal with it, they could invoke Article 5 to be able to get that,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters on Sunday ahead of the meeting.
It is a growing challenge for the Biden administration, which has threatened to retaliate against attacks from cybercriminal collectives in Russia, but has so far announced no concrete consequences. In May, one such attack on a major U.S. oil pipeline disrupted fuel supplies in parts of the country, and another attack at the end of the month temporarily forced the world’s largest meat producer to shut down all of its U.S. beef plants.
Leaders also discussed the pullout from Afghanistan, mostly falling in line behind Biden’s decision to withdraw troops despite some reservations there was little consultation in advance.
“I believe – and I’ve said this my whole career and the four years I was out, when I decided to run for president again – that NATO is – Article 5, we take as a sacred obligation,” Biden said as he sat with Stoltenberg on Monday, a memorial to the Sept. 11 attacks behind them.
“And I constantly remind Americans that when America was attacked for the first time on its shores since what happened back in the beginning of World War II, NATO stepped up. NATO stepped up and they honored Article 5.”
Stoltenberg sought to put the best face on the withdrawal Monday, acknowledging it “was not an easy decision.” Some analysts say it is only a matter of time before the country is recaptured by the Taliban.
The departure “entails risks, no doubt about that,” Stoltenberg said. “The alternative, to stay, was also an option that entailed risks for more violence, more casualties, and even perhaps the need to increase the number of NATO troops.”
Before the day of meetings kicked off, Biden and Stoltenberg briefly met for a confab that was not announced on the president’s public schedule, where Biden repeated the sentiment that, as he seeks to reassure allies in the post-Trump era, has become something of a mantra on his first foreign sojourn.
“I just want all of Europe to know that the United States is there,” Biden said. “The United States is there.”
Published : June 15, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Michael Birnbaum, Anne Gearan, Ashley Parker
Nuclear plant in China refutes report of radiation leak warning, says indicators normal
Chinas Taishan Nuclear Power Plant said accusations of dangerous levels of radiation leakage at the facility were untrue, claiming its two reactors were operating normally as its French partner said it called for a meeting with its Chinese counterpart to resolve a “performance issue” at the plant.
The Taishan plant, a joint venture between the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) and Électricité de France (EDF), a French utility, came under scrutiny after CNN reported Monday that U.S. officials had spent the past week assessing a warning from its French partner that Chinese officials were raising the allowed limits of radiation outside the plant to avoid having to shut the facility.
“Recently there have been some agencies and media organizations paying attention to and inquiring into the situation at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant,” CGN, the operator of the plant, said in a statement on its website Sunday evening, before the CNN report was published.
CGN said the first of its two EPR (Evolutionary Power Reactor) nuclear reactors was operating normally while the second had completed a planned overhaul, the facility’s first since operations began, and was connected to the power grid on June 10. The plant said the overhaul had met all targets in “safety, security, quality and project time.”
“All operating indicators of the two units have met the requirements of nuclear safety regulations and technical requirements for power plants,” it said. CGN said it had not detected unusual amounts of radiation inside or outside the plant, adding “environmental indicators at present are within their normal range for both the Taishan plant and its surrounding environment.”
According to the CNN report, Framatome, a supplier of nuclear systems that is owned by Électricité de France, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy to obtain a waiver to share U.S. technical assistance with the Taishan plant, claiming radiation limits had been raised above French safety standards. Citing unnamed individuals within the Biden administration, the report said U.S. officials do not believe the plant is at “crisis level.”
Framatome said in a statement to Agence France-Presse that it was “supporting resolution of a performance issue” at the Taishan plant. “According to the data available, the plant is operating within the safety parameters,” the company said.
EDF told Reuters it had called a meeting with its partner, CGN. EDF said it had been informed of a buildup of inert gases that had affected the primary circuit of reactor No. 1 of the plant. It said the build up of inert gases like argon, helium or neon was a “known phenomenon, studied and provided for in the reactor operating procedures.”
The Taishan plant, which sits about 84 miles west of Hong Kong in the densely populated southern province of Guangdong, was beset with delays for years after plans for construction were released. Its first reactor went online in December 2018 while the second went into operation in September 2019, the power plant said in its statement on Sunday.
CNN reported that Framatome warned U.S. officials in early June that the plant was leaking fission gas. According to a memo seen by CNN, the plant operator is meant to comply with regulatory limits to “ensure off-site dose limits are maintained” to “not cause undue harm to the surrounding population.”
China’s National Nuclear Security Administration instead revised the limit to more than double its initial release, increasing “off-site risk to the public and on-site workers,” the memo said, according to CNN. The safety authority was not immediately available to comment because of a public holiday in China on Monday.
In China, the allegations of a leak received little attention, with no state media outlets reporting the issue and almost no discussion on social media platforms. On Weibo, Wang Yigang, member of the Institute of Industrial Economics, affiliated with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the accusations were the doing of the “American imperialism hyping up opposition to nuclear power and forcing China to develop wind and solar power only.”