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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince just made a big mistake

Precipitate and unexplained decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar and impose an air and land blockade of the country bears the hallmarks of the erratic decision making of Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Alexander Mercouris

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There has been considerable debate about the reasons for the extraordinary diplomatic and economic attack on Qatar organised by Saudi Arabia today.  What makes it baffling is that there is no real explanation for it.

It is well known that the Gulf’s two Wahhabi monarchies don’t get on well with each other.  The Saudis and the Qataris have regularly competed with each for influence, for example by backing different groups of Jihadis in Libya and Syria.  Qatar is also a major supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, opposes the Saudi backed Egyptian government which came to power through a military coup launched against Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s democratically elected President who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has supported the Palestinian group Hamas, which is affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, and which has also in the past had close connections with Saudi Arabia’s enemies, Syria and Iran.

The Saudis like other Gulf autocracies are also known to have been made extremely angry by some of the reporting of Al-Jazeera, the Qatari based and funded media group, which has become the most internationally known media group in the Arab world, whose displays of independence have incensed the other Gulf monarchies.

Strikingly one of the very first steps taken by Saudi Arabia following the severing of diplomatic ties with Qatar was to close down Al-Jazeera’s Saudi office and revoke its broadcasting licence.  This was explained by the following somewhat bizarre announcement, which implies that Al-Jazeera has been inciting mutiny amongst Saudi troops fighting the Houthis in Yemen

The move came after Al-Jazeera has promoted plots of terrorist groups, supported the Houthi militias in Yemen, and tried to break the Saudi internal ranks by inciting them to leave the country and harm the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Lastly, there have been hints that the Qataris have been unhappy with the ultra hard line Saudi Arabia has recently been following against Iran.

Certainly it is true that the Qataris have maintained a slightly less hostile attitude towards Iran than the other Gulf States.  Qatar’s ruler, emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, even had the temerity to telephone Iran’s President Rouhani recently to congratulate him on his re-election.

However, though the the ruling families of Saudi Arabia and Qatar – the Al-Sauds and the Al-Thanis – are known to dislike each other, and have long had a rivalrous relationship, they have nonetheless more often than not managed to work closely with each other, and were doing so until just hours ago in the war against the Houthis in Yemen.  This is unsurprising since as both are Wahhabi Gulf oil monarchies they have so much in common with each other that it is all but inevitable that they should align with each other on most issues.

In this case what is genuinely extraordinary about the Saudi move is that the Saudis have provided no real explanation for it.  As if to underscore the fact, the Saudi Press Agency has released a multiplicity of statements over the course of the day purporting to explain this decision, none of which however does so to any truly satisfactory degree.

Here is the first statement

An official source stated that the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia emanating from exercising its sovereign rights guaranteed by the international law and protecting its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism has decided to sever diplomatic and consular relations with the State of Qatar, close all land, sea and air ports, prevent crossing into Saudi territories, airspace and territorial waters, and start immediate legal procedures for understanding with fraternal and friendly countries and international companies to implement the same procedure as soon as possible for all means of transport to and from the State of Qatar for reasons relating to Saudi national security.

Here is the second

The Command of Coalition to Support the Legitimacy in Yemen announced that it has decided to end the participation of the State of Qatar in the coalition due to its practices that enhance terrorism, support for its organisations in Yemen including Al-Qaeda and Da’esh (ISIS), and dealing with coup militias in Yemen which is contrary to the coalition’s objectives of which the most important one is fighting terrorism.

Here is the third

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken this decisive decision as a result of grave violations being committed by the authorities in Doha over the past years in secret and public aiming at dividing internal Saudi ranks, instigating against the State, infringing on its sovereignty, adopting various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilising the region including the Muslim Brotherhood Group, Daesh (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, promoting the ethics and plans of these groups through its media permanently, supporting the activities of Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the governorate of Qatif of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Bahrain, financing, adopting and sheltering extremists who seek to undermine the stability and unity of the homeland at home and abroad, and using the media that seek to fuel the strife internally; and it was clear to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the support and backing from the authorities in Doha for coup Al-Houthi militias even after the announcement of the Coalition to Support the Legitimacy in Yemen.

The Kingdom has also taken this decision in solidarity with the Kingdom of Bahrain being subjected to terrorist campaigns and operations supported by the authorities in Doha.

and here is the fourth and last

Since 1995, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its brothers have made strenuous and continued efforts to urge the authorities in Doha to abide by its commitments and agreements, yet, they have repeatedly violated their international obligations and the agreements they signed under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab States to cease the hostilities against the Kingdom and stand against terrorist groups and activities of which the latest one was their failure to implement Riyadh Agreement.

In accordance with the decision to cut off diplomatic and consular relations, Saudi citizens are prohibited from traveling to Qatar, residing in or passing through it while they, residents and visitors have to hurry leaving its territories within 14 days.

The decision, for security reasons, unfortunately prevents Qatari citizens’ entry to or transit through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and those Qatari residents and visitors have to leave Saudi territories within 14 days, confirming the Kingdom’s commitment and keenness to provide all facilities and services for Qatari pilgrims and Umrah performers.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia affirms that it has long been patient despite the fact that the authorities in Doha continue to evade their commitments and conspire against it in the interest of the Qatari people, which is a natural and genuine extension of their brethren in the Kingdom and an integral part of their pillars.  The Kingdom will continue to support the people of Qatar, its security and stability regardless of the hostile practices being carried out by the authorities in Doha.

This multiplicity of statements, which make accusations against Qatar which are so vague and general as to be all but meaningless, and which accuse Qatar of things like supporting Jihadi terrorism of which Saudi Arabia is universally known to be equally guilty, suggest that the Saudis themselves are unable to pinpoint any single action of Qatar’s that explains or justifies their decision.

There have been some suggestions that the Saudis were angered by statements carried by Qatar’s news agency on 23rd May 2017 which had Qatar’s ruler emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani criticising recent tensions with Iran and calling Hamas and Hezbollah ‘resistance organisations’.

The Qataris claim these statements were false, and were inserted on their news agency’s website as a result of a hack.  I have no doubt they are right, and moreover I strongly suspect that the hackers were the Saudis, looking to manufacture pretexts for the action against Qatar which they took today.

The second and the third of the series of statements published by the Saudi Press Agency refer to the conflict in Yemen, in which Qatari troops have been fighting the Houthi militia alongside the Saudis and under Saudi command.  These statements, echoing the accusations the Saudis are making against Al-Jazeera, suggest that the Saudis may have been angered by contacts between the Qataris and the Houthi militia, as well as by some of Al-Jazeera’s reporting of the Yemen war.

It is no secret that the Saudi led war against the Houthis in Yemen is not going well, and it could be that in their anger the Saudis have turned on the Qataris, who they have long resented as difficult and unruly allies, and are blaming them for the failures of the war.

Whilst this makes a kind of sense, going so far as to sever diplomatic relations and impose a land and air blockade seems a wildly precipitate and disproportionate way to express this anger.

It is also counterproductive.  It suggests that Saudi Arabia is no longer willing to tolerate any show of independence by any of its allies, and take extreme action to impose its will on them.

This is bound to create resentment, with Saudi Arabia’s fellow Gulf monarchies now aware that they too may face the crack of the whip if they step out of line at any time.

In international relations it is always better to try to keep the mailed fist concealed as much as possible inside a velvet glove.  The Saudis have always known this in the past, and their conduct of diplomacy has always been based on it.  On this occasion they have heedlessly and pointlessly cast the glove off.  Though their Gulf allies and Egypt have done as ordered, they will be quietly seething, and their populations will be even more.

There is also the question of whether this move makes any sense in geo-strategic terms.  However angry Saudi Arabia may be with Qatar, whether about its failures in Yemen or over any other issue, acting in this way against Qatar is not going to solve Saudi Arabia’s problems whether in Yemen or anywhere else.  Instead what Saudi Arabia has done has been to break the ranks of the Saudi led regional alliance, the Gulf Cooperation Council, handing an unlooked for diplomatic victory to Iran, which is bound to try to capitalise on the development by seeking to forge quietly closer links with a now otherwise isolated Qatar.

 

Qatar is also a vital ally of the US, which has a major air base in Qatar.  There have been some suggestions that Saudi Arabia’s action against Qatar was cleared with Donald Trump during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia.

This is actually extremely unlikely, and though the US is unlikely to intervene directly in the quarrel on Qatar’s side, it will not be happy at a Saudi action that puts a key US ally under pressure, which threatens instability across the whole region, and which provides a potential opening for Iran.

As to the question of instability, what is so strange about the Saudi action is that the last of the four statements issued by the Saudi Press Agency today shows that the Saudis themselves are worried by the potential for instability their own action today has caused.  How else to explain the following words in this statement?

The Kingdom will continue to support the people of Qatar, its security and stability regardless of the hostile practices being carried out by the authorities in Doha.

(bold italics added)

These words, saying that Saudi Arabia will continue to support Qatar’s “security and stability”, sound very strange when it is Saudi Arabia itself which by severing relations and imposing a land and air blockade is putting Qatar’s “security and stability” at risk.

If the action Saudi Arabia has taken against Qatar today is precipitate and counterproductive, then why was it taken?

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that we are seeing yet another example of the wild and reckless decision making that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, the 31 year old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is prone to.

I have already written of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s wildly overambitious plans for Saudi Arabia’s economic development, and of his paranoid plans for a pre-emptive war against Iran.

The decision to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar and to impose a land and air blockade on the country looks like another of these impulsive and ill-though-out decisions Prince Mohammed bin Salman seems prone to making.

Another example is of course the decision to invade Yemen, which is widely known to have been made by Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself, overruling the advice of more experienced Saudi Princes, and which may be the ultimate cause of the current crisis in Saudi Arabia’s relations with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia is a notoriously closed and secretive society, whose inner counsels are very difficult for outsiders to read or penetrate.  However there must be people within Saudi Arabia who must be becoming increasingly worried at the erratic and increasingly reckless way in which the affairs of the Kingdom are being managed.

Not so long ago Saudi Arabia was famous throughout the region for always acting quietly and with discretion.  Today under the leadership of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman it acts brazenly and irresponsibly.

One wonders for how long this will continue before opposition to Prince Mohammed bin Salman crystallises.

The Saudi Princes have in the past shown a ruthless ability to act decisively in order to preserve their positions, and it is not unknown for a Saudi King to be removed from the throne if his behaviour comes to be seen as destabilising.

Perhaps it is time for Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who is not even King yet – to start watching his back.

Better still, he needs – urgently – to start listening to some advice.

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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