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China urges US to withdraw sanctions against its companies over N. Korea

Beijing has urged the US to drop the new batch of sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals, saying that the restrictions do not contribute to defusing the Korean standoff.

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Foreign Ministry headquarters in Beijing

Beijing has urged the US to drop the new batch of sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals, saying that the restrictions do not contribute to defusing the Korean standoff.

The sanctions were imposed by the US Treasury on Tuesday. They affect 16 mainly Chinese and Russian individuals and companies over alleged “support of the North Korean regime” and assisting Pyongyang in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

“China opposes the imposition of unilateral sanctions outside the framework of the UN Security Council, especially the ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ imposed on Chinese entities or individuals by other countries in accordance with their domestic laws. Our position is clear and consistent,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular press briefing.

Beijing has always conducted a “comprehensive and earnest implementation” of the UNSC resolutions, the spokeswoman stated, adding that China would punish anyone caught violating the sanctions under Chinese law.

The unilateral US actions contribute neither to solving problems on the Korean Peninsula, nor to Sino-US trust, the spokeswoman said, adding that Beijing has urged Washington to drop the sanctions.

One of the Chinese companies hit by the new US sanctions, Dandong Rich Earth Trading Co., has firmly rejected the allegations of violating the UNSC resolutions. The US Treasury accused the company of purchasing vanadium ore from North Korea.

“We did not import vanadium ore from North Korea. We imported products based on vanadium and refined from coal impurities. This product was not under sanctions. That’s why we’ve been able to register respective import with the Chinese customs services,” Li Xiaoguang, a manager at the company, told RIA Novosti, dismissing the accusations that the company’s business helped Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

He said the company “would have never been able to import sanctioned materials from North Korea, since they would not have passed through the Chinese customs,” the company representative added.

Earlier, reacting to the same round of sanctions targeting a Russian company and four individuals, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov expressed disappointment and warned Washington of “retaliatory measures that are inevitable in this situation.”

“Against this deplorable backdrop, statements by US representatives about a desire to stabilize bilateral ties sound highly unconvincing,” Ryabkov said in a statement on Tuesday. “We have always advocated and will continue to advocate efforts to resolve our existing differences through dialogue. Over the past few years, Washington should have grasped the idea that we consider the language of sanctions to be unacceptable, and that such actions only hamper the resolution of real problems. So far, however, it appears that they have failed to comprehend these obvious truths.”

Senior Russian Senator Andrey Klimov said that the sanctions lack legitimacy.

“These sanctions are illegal in themselves, because the only thing recognized by international law is the sanctions of the UN Security Council,” Klimov told Interfax. “We must react in principle to this insane and confrontational policy. The toolbox is rich, let’s hope that we will act consistently, reasonably, professionally and effectively.”

America

Trump announces White House counsel to quit in fall

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Washington, Aug 30 (IANS) US President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday on Twitter that White House counsel Don McGahn, who has played a key role in defending the President in the Russia probe, will leave his post in the fall.

McGahn, who began serving as White House counsel in January 2017, was questioned several times by the special prosecutor heading the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, and his testimony could be key for determining if Trump tried to obstruct that investigation, Efe reported.

“White House Counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall, shortly after the confirmation (hopefully) of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!” tweeted Trump.

Although it had nothing to do with McGahn’s departure, Trump took advantage of the occasion to mention in his tweet the process of confirming Kavanaugh, his nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, who must receive the approval of the Senate.

Trump’s announcement comes a few hours after the Axios Web site, citing White House officials and sources close to McGahn, reported that the White House counsel was intending to leave his post as the administration’s top legal adviser sometime this autumn.

According to Axios, McGahn wants his successor to be veteran attorney Emmet T. Flood, who was one of the lawyers who represented former President Bill Clinton during his 1998 impeachment in Congress after lying to lawmakers about his relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.

Trump hired Flood last May with the aim of making his legal strategy more “aggressive” in responding to the Mueller investigation of his 2016 presidential campaign’s potential connections with the Kremlin.

Since May 2017, May has been investigating the scope of the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 vote and whether there was any kind of coordination between Moscow and members of the Trump campaign.

According to The New York Times earlier this month, McGahn has been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation and during the past nine months has been questioned by the special counsel’s team three times.

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America

Trump once again compares Russia probe to McCarthyism

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Donald Trump

Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) President Donald Trump on Sunday once again, as he has regularly done, compared the Russia probe investigation to McCarthyism, the anti-communist campaign pursued by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

“Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby! Rigged Witch Hunt!” said Trump on Twitter.

This kind of comparison has become a staple of Trump’s tweets, in which he regularly refers to the probe headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as McCarthyism and a “witch hunt,” Efe reported.

Since May 2017, Mueller has been tasked with heading an independent investigation of possible links between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

US media reported Saturday that Mueller’s team of prosecutors have proposed up to six months in prison for George Papadopoulos, a former adviser to Trump, for having lied to the FBI during questioning of him for the Russia probe.

Papadopoulos is expected to be sentenced on Sept. 7.

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US sanctions Myanmar military personnel, units over human rights abuse

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Rohingya Muslims

Washington, Aug 18 (IANS) The US Treasury Department on Friday announced to sanction four commanders and two military units in Myanmar, accusing them of being related with human rights abuse cases in the country.

In a statement, the Treasury said the targeted commanders were from Burmese military and Border Guard Police (BGP), Xinhua reported.

Together with the 33rd Light Infantry Division (LID) and the 99th LID, the commanders were punished over the alleged involvement in ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State and “other widespread human rights abuses” in Kachin and Shan States.

These individuals and entities were designated according to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016 that targeted “perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.”

Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in the statement that the US government “will continue to systematically expose and bring accountability to human rights abusers in this region.”

As a result of these actions, any property, or interest in property, of those designated within U.S. jurisdiction is blocked.

Additionally, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with blocked persons, including entities 50 percent or more owned by designated persons.

Building upon the act, US President Donald Trump signed Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, or “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption.” To date, 84 individuals and entities have been sanctioned under the order.

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