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US strengthening Indo-Pacific policies against Chinese threats: Pompeo

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Accusing China of posing an “unprecedented threat” to the Indo-Pacific region, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has declared that the US was strengthening its policies there and dismissed Beijing’s maritime claims against its neighbours.

He said on Monday, “The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today we are strengthening US policy in a vital, contentious part of that region — the South China Sea.”

“In the South China Sea, we seek to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes,” his statement said.

He said that Washington was making clear to Beijing that its claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea “are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them”.

Pompeo categorically dismissed all the various claims China has made in south-east Asia involving Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brunei.

With the failure to make progress before the November elections in the trade negotiations on which President Donald Trump had expended a lot of diplomacy and the China-originated Covid-19 economic catastrophe, Washington is on the offensive, especially because under the cover of the pandemic Beijing has become more aggressive towards its neighbours.

Pompeo has put several Chinese officials under a visa ban over Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong, human rights violations of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, interference in the South China Sea and trade restrictions.

He has launched a campaign to stop its technology inroads into countries, particularly the advanced 5G cell phone system, and warned of the dangers of its aid programmes that in reality push the recipients into a debt trap that forces them to hand over their resources.

Washington has imposed restrictions on Beijing’s access to US technology.

The US has also sent three aircraft carrier strike groups that include other ships to the Indo-Pacific zone in a show of force.

Pompeo said last week that the Chinese confrontation in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh was a part of a pattern of Beijing’s aggressiveness and said the world must unite to confront it.

In his statement on Monday, Pompeo said the 2016 decisions of the arbitration tribunal set up under the Law of the Sea Convention, which China has signed, should stand.

In recent months, China has sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat, interfered with a Malaysian exploration vessel and intrusions by Chinese boats in Indonesian maritime economic zone.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)

Source: IANS

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Russian Deputy PM Yury Trutnev tests positive for COVID-19

Russia registered 5,102 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking its total to 902,701, the country’s COVID-19 response centre.

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Moscow: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev has tested positive for COVID-19.

Trutnev’s trip to the Far East as part of the visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has been postponed so far, Xinhua news agency.

“Before the trip, Yury Trutnev was tested for coronavirus. He showed a positive result,” he said.

Russia registered 5,102 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking its total to 902,701, the country’s COVID-19 response centre.

The death toll stood at 15,231.

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Afghanistan: 4 police officers killed in bomb attack in Western Farah Province

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FARAH, Afghanistan, Aug. 13 : At least four police officers were killed and 16 people wounded after a bomb explosion took place outside a provincial police station in Afghanistan’s western Farah province on Wednesday, a local official confirmed.

“Four killed and 16 wounded were admitted to a provincial main hospital following a bomb explosion in Farah city, capital of Farah province this evening,” Dr. Abdul Jabar Shahiq from provincial health directorate told Xinhua.

Those among the wounded were child and a police officer, he added.

Security forces have cordoned off the area for precautionary measures.

The blast sent a column of thick smoke into the sky and triggered panic, Muhibullah Muhib from provincial police told Xinhua, adding the explosion damaged several vehicles and buildings.

Unofficial sources said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber who detonated a tricycle, targeting a passing convey of provincial intelligence official roughly at 6:40 p.m. local time.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

Since the signing of a Taliban and United States peace agreement in late February, Afghan leaders, including President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, have frequently demanded the Taliban to reduce violence.

The militants, however, have intensified attacks, killing and injuring scores of combatants and civilians.

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5.5-magnitude earthquake rattles northern Philippines

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MANILA, Aug. 13 : An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.5 shook Batanes province in the northern Philippines on Thursday, the Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology (Phivolcs) said.

The institute said the quake, which struck at 6:32 a.m. local time, hit at a depth of 14 kilometers, about 49 kilometers southwest of Sabtang town.

The institute said the quake, which was tectonic in origin, will trigger aftershocks but will not cause damage.

The Philippines has frequent seismic activity due to its location along the Pacific “Ring of Fire.”

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