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Trump steps up pressure on China as US coronavirus deaths mount

The United States stepped up its pressure on China over the coronavirus pandemic, with President Donald Trump saying his administration was trying to determine where the deadly disease originated from. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called on Beijing “to come clean” on what it knows. At a White House news conference on Wednesday, Trump…

Trump steps up pressure on China as US coronavirus deaths mount

The United States stepped up its pressure on China over the coronavirus pandemic, with President Donald Trump saying his administration was trying to determine where the deadly disease originated from.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called on Beijing “to come clean” on what it knows.
At a White House news conference on Wednesday, Trump was asked about reports of the virus escaping from a laboratory in Wuhan, where the coronavirus first appeared.
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“We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened,” he said.
Asked if he had raised the subject in his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump said: “I don’t want to discuss what I talked to him about the laboratory, I just don’t want to discuss, it’s inappropriate right now.”
At least 136,000 people around the world have now died from the disease, with almost 31,000 in the US alone. More than two million people have been diagnosed with the virus, while at least half a million have recovered.

UN says ‘not the time’ as Trump suspends WHO funds over pandemic

Trump’s top diplomat, Pompeo, meanwhile told Fox News Channel after Trump’s news conference, “we know this virus originated in Wuhan, China,” and noted that the Institute of Virology was only a handful of miles from the market, where people first came down with the disease.
“We really need the Chinese government to open up” and help explain “exactly how this virus spread,” Pompeo added.
“The Chinese government needs to come clean,” he said.
The state-backed Wuhan Institute of Virology dismissed reports that the virus may have been artificially synthesised at one of its laboratories or escaped from its facility as far back as February.
Deadly consequences for delay
Trump and Pompeo’s comments follow an Associated Press news agency report, which blamed Chinese authorities for failing to immediately disclose information about the human-to-human transmission of the virus, also known as COVID-19, which allowed the virus to spread beyond Wuhan.
Fox News claimed on Wednesday that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory as part of China’s effort to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States.
This report and others have suggested the Wuhan lab where virology experiments took place and lax safety standards there led to someone getting infected and appearing at a nearby “wet” market, where the virus began to spread.

COVID-19: China approves testing of three experimental vaccines

Trump and other American officials have also been expressing deep scepticism about China’s officially declared death toll from the virus of around 3,000 people, when at least 30,000 people have already died in the US.
On Wednesday, the US president returned to the subject, saying the United States has more cases “because we do more reporting”.
“Do you really believe those numbers in this vast country called China, and that they have a certain number of cases and a certain number of deaths; does anybody really believe that?” he said.
Scientists are still trying to determine the source of the virus, although the broad scientific consensus remains that COVID-19 originated in bats and spread to humans via an intermediary host.
On Tuesday, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that US intelligence indicated that the coronavirus probably occurred naturally, as opposed to being created in a laboratory in China, but that there was no certainty either way.
Trump’s critics, meanwhile, see his latest statements as an attempt to “shift the blame”, as the outbreak in the US continues to grow.
A report published over the weekend blamed Trump’s halting action and infighting in his administration for causing the delay in the US response, resulting in more deaths.
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US steps up support for Taiwan to counter rising China pressure |NationalTribune.com

The United States said on Monday that it was establishing a new bilateral economic dialogue with Taiwan, an initiative it said was aimed at strengthening ties with Taipei and supporting it in the face of increasing pressure from Beijing. Washington also said it had declassified six security assurances given to Taiwan during the era of…

US steps up support for Taiwan to counter rising China pressure |NationalTribune.com

The United States said on Monday that it was establishing a new bilateral economic dialogue with Taiwan, an initiative it said was aimed at strengthening ties with Taipei and supporting it in the face of increasing pressure from Beijing.
Washington also said it had declassified six security assurances given to Taiwan during the era of US President Ronald Reagan – a move analysts said appeared intended to show further support for Taipei.
The US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, David Stilwell, made the announcements on Monday, amid a continued deterioration in relations between Washington and Beijing and increasing pressure from China on democratically-ruled Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory.
Stilwell said the US is intensifying support to the island because of the “increasing threat posed by Beijing to peace and stability in the region” and its “deepening ties of friendship, trade, and productivity” with Taiwan.

Taiwan flexes military might amid China tensions

Washington broke off formal diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 in favour of Beijing, but the US is bound by law to help Taiwan defend itself and is the main arms supplier to the island. The administration of current US President Donald Trump has made strengthening its support for the island a priority, and has also boosted weapons and equipment sales.
Trump is campaigning for re-election in November with a tough approach to China among his key foreign policy platforms, accusing his rival, Democrat Joe Biden, of being weak on China.
In August, Trump also dispatched his health secretary, Alex Azar, to Taipei – the highest-ranking US official to travel to the island in years – angering Beijing.
‘Significant adjustments’
Stilwell told a virtual forum hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation that the latest US moves were not a policy shift, but part of a set of “significant adjustments” within Washington’s long-standing “one-China” policy.
“We will continue to help Taipei resist the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to pressure, intimidate, and marginalise Taiwan,” Stilwell said.
“With a population of 23 million, Taiwan continues to punch above its weight in economics as well as governance, thereby making the world a better place.”

Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen says no to ‘one country, two systems’

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed thanks for the show of support at a time when it said China was using military intimidation to damage peace and stability near Taiwan, and said it would continue to strengthen its defence capabilities.
Earlier on Monday, Beijing said that the anti-China pronouncements by certain US politicians are destined to fail, after another Trump official, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, said on Friday that the US should use its alliance in the region to cope with “challenges” posed by China. 
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing on Monday that some officials in the US were “driven by their zero-sum game mindset” and “Cold War mentality and personal gains.”
‘Six Assurances’

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar’s recent visit to Taiwan and meeting with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen angered China, which considers the island as part of its territory [Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via Reuters]

Daniel Russel, a predecessor of Stilwell until early in the Trump administration, said the “Six Assurances” made to Taipei by the Reagan administration in 1982 had been a “loosely kept secret” at best.
He said the decision to publish them looked like a compromise response to pressure from administration hawks to abandon “strategic ambiguity” – a long-standing policy of withholding a clear-cut US commitment to defend Taiwan while still showing sufficient support to deter any Chinese military adventurism.

This is quite a speech on Taiwan by @USAsiaPacificChief Stilwell. It says almost everything Taipei would want the US to say: E.g.: China is the problem, not Taiwan; Taiwan needs more international room. US will keep selling arms to Taiwan. https://t.co/lC56WurlXV
— Julian Ku 古舉倫 (@julianku) August 31, 2020

Among the assurances made in 1982, but never formally made public, are statements that the US has not set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan, nor agreed to prior consultation with Beijing on such sales, or to revise the Taiwan Relations Act that underpins US policy towards the island.
The assurances, Stilwell said, “endure today”.
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Australia

Australia steps up Hong Kong action in wake of China security law |NationalTribune.com

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suspended the country’s extradition agreement with Hong Kong and extended visas for an estimated 10,000 Hong Kong people already in Australia because of concerns about the impact of the national security law that China imposed on the territory 10 days ago. Morrison said the extradition pact was being suspended because…

Australia steps up Hong Kong action in wake of China security law |NationalTribune.com

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suspended the country’s extradition agreement with Hong Kong and extended visas for an estimated 10,000 Hong Kong people already in Australia because of concerns about the impact of the national security law that China imposed on the territory 10 days ago.
Morrison said the extradition pact was being suspended because the security legislation represents “a fundamental change in circumstance”.
The prime minister also said the visas of about 10,000 Hong Kong people already living in Australia would be extended by five years, and those on student or temporary work visas would be offered a pathway to permanent residency.
“There will be citizens of Hong Kong who may be looking to move elsewhere, to start a new life somewhere else,” Morrison said. It was not clear what Australia might offer to those people still in Hong Kong. 
‘Increased risk’
The national security law – which bans what China calls secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces – was imposed on the eve of the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. The move followed months of protests, some of which turned violent, over perceived mainland encroachment into the autonomy and freedoms that were agreed under the so-called “one country, two systems” framework.

Protests on first day of Hong Kong’s new security laws

Taking to Twitter on Thursday morning, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the legislation “undermines” the principle of “one country, two systems”.
Her comment followed discussions with the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and New Zealand. Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign minister, later said the country was reviewing all its “relationship settings” with Hong Kong. 
The UK has already said it will give about three million Hong Kong people the right to live in the country and provide them with a pathway to citizenship. Canada is also said to be mulling higher immigration and has already suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. 

Today I spoke with 🇬🇧 🇨🇦 🇺🇸 🇳🇿 on global security, including concerns that the NSL imposed on #HongKong undermines One Country Two Systems & trust in international agreements. We will work together for human rights & freedoms @DominicRaab @SecPompeo @winstonpeters @FP_Champagne
— Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) July 9, 2020

Australia is also making a pitch for international financial services, media, and consulting businesses to relocate and said it would offer incentives and visa packages for staff to help with any move.
“We want them to look to Australia, to come, to set up shop,” said acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge.
The country also updated its travel advisory for Hong Kong, which is currently home to about 100,000 Australians. 
The travel advice says Australians “may be at increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds”.
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