Why Taiwan Came Up During Ukraine-Related Call Between Biden, China’s Xi

SAN FRANCISCO — The presidents of China and the United States discussed Taiwan during a video call last week, prompting suggestions that Beijing may be seeking a trade-off in response to U.S. President Joe Biden’s demand that his counterpart Xi Jinping withhold material support for Russian’s war effort in Ukraine.

The subject of appeared in public summaries of the discussion released by both sides. The U.S. readout mentioned Taiwan once, whereas the Chinese readout brought it up four times.

“To put it together, it somewhat shows that the United States wants to please China in exchange for something – literally [the] Ukraine situation and try to convince China not do anything stupid with Russia,” said Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan.

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists lost to Mao Zedong’s Communists and rebased their government in Taipei. Beijing has not dropped the threat of force, if needed, to unite the two sides.

Since mid-2020, it has flown military planes over part of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone almost daily. The Chinese Navy has been passing ships through a widening swath of the world’s waterways, especially in Asia and in the strait west of Taiwan.

Biden said the U.S. government “does not support ‘Taiwan independence’” or intend to seek conflict with China, according to Xi’s summary of remarks from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “I take these remarks very seriously,” Xi was quoted as saying.

“What’s worth noting in particular is that some people in the U.S. have sent a wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence’ forces,” Xinhua added. Xi called the signals “very dangerous.”

Former U.S. president Donald Trump had stepped up sales of weapons to Taiwan and increased the frequency of high-level visits to the island as he challenged China on issues from trade to military expansion around Asia.

Any U.S. “mishandling” of Taiwan will “have a disruptive impact on the bilateral ties,” Xi added.

Biden said U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed and that the United States “continues to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” according to a White House statement.

That statement repeats a standing U.S. policy of supporting Taiwan’s current self-rule without declaring formal independence from China. The policy discourages China from unilaterally forcing its goal of unifying the two sides.

“Their differences are here, and it’s obvious, but the fact that they’re talking — it’s actually good, and I think they can find some common ground despite the differences,” said Eduardo Araral, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school.

Biden warned Xi on the call not to provide material support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after the U.S. president’s top diplomat said Washington believed Beijing was willing to offer support to Moscow.

“Of course, the starting point for America’s interests was hoping that China will not help Russia, but this does constitute Biden’s main rationale,” said Chao Chien-min, dean of social sciences at Chinese Cultural University in Taipei.

Biden may be trying to cement a stronger long-term relationship with old Cold War foe China, Chao said.

Sino-US relations

The China and U.S. statements both say Biden and Xi asked their teams to follow up after the video call but did not give specifics about how they should do that.

More senior-level dialogue is likely, analysts say, pointing to the call last Friday that followed a Biden-Xi video meeting in November.

While the calls signal stability in Sino-U.S. ties, experts see low odds of the two countries advancing toward any stronger friendship. Both are minding their domestic political landscapes, Huang said, and they lack conditions for further easing of tensions between the two countries.

It’s not clear yet whether China will distance itself from Russia in the month-old war that Moscow launched against Ukraine almost a month ago, some note.

“I do not think [the Friday call] will have any impact on current Sino-U.S. relations,” said Nguyen Thanh Trung, director of the Center for International Studies at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City. He forecast that “China is not willing to sacrifice benefits from possible warm-again Sino-U.S. ties for Russia.”

Source: Voice of America

Seven dead as Cyclone Gombe hits Mozambique -president

Maputo, At least seven people died as Tropical Cyclone Gombe made early morning landfall in Mozambique on Friday packing wind speeds exceeding 200 kmh (125 mph) that pummelled north and central areas of the country, President Filipe Nyusi said.

The southern African country has been struggling to recover from a series of devastating cyclones that have killed scores of people and displaced thousands, Reuters said.

Nyusi, speaking to reporters during a visit to South Africa, said: “I have briefed President Ramaphosa on the Gombe tropical storm affecting Mozambique since 2 a.m. today. Seven people were killed across Nampula province due to fallen houses and other infrastructure (collapsing).”

He said the storm’s initial damage was in Nampula in Mozambique’s northeast. The World Meteorological Organisation said Gombe made landfall as an intense category-3 cyclone, predicting “devastating winds, rainfall and storm surge”.

“Winds have weakened but the heavy rains bring a threat of flooding in Mozambique and southern Malawi for several days,” the WMO said in a tweet.

According to the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, category 3 denotes cyclones with one-minute, maximum sustained winds of between 178 kmh and 207 kmh.

State broadcaster TVM and private channels aired footage showing fallen trees and poorly built clay adobe homes with roofs ripped off by fierce winds. Heavy rains were also causing flooding in low-lying areas, authorities said.

Tropical Storm Ana killed at least 88 people across southern and eastern Africa in January, the most recent severe storm to hit a southern African region where millions of impoverished people are facing volatile weather conditions blamed on rising temperatures and climate change.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

Bahraini Ambassador attends meeting in Germany

Manama, Bahrain’s Ambassador to Germany Abdullah Abdullatif Abdullah, participated in a virtual meeting with Arab ambassadors accredited to the Federal Republic of Germany.

This came at the invitation of the Director General of the Affairs of the Near and Middle East, Africa and Latin America of the German Federal Office Philipp Ackermann.

The meeting discussed topics of common interest between the Arab countries and the friendly Federal Republic of Germany.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

Shura Council Chairman arrives in Morocco

Rabat, Shura Council Chairman Ali bin Saleh Al Saleh arrived in Morocco today to take part in the 11th conference of the Senate and Shura Councils League in Africa and the Arab World, which will be held in Rabat on March 3-5.

Al Saleh and the accompanying delegation were received on arrival by League Chairman Al Naama Mayara, Bahrain’s Ambassador and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Morocco Khalid bin bin Salman Al Musallem.

The delegation includes Services Committee chairperson Dr. Jehad Abdulla Al Fadhel and Human Rights Committee Chair Ahmed Mahdi Al Haddad.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

Foreign Minister Says Iran Eager to Revive Nuclear Deal if Interests Secured

Iran is “in a hurry” to strike a new nuclear accord as long as its national interests are protected, its foreign minister said on Monday as Tehran and the United States resumed indirect talks on salvaging Tehran’s 2015 agreement with world powers.

The talks, with European intermediaries shuttling between the two, have been held in Vienna since April amid growing Western fears about Tehran’s accelerating nuclear advances, seen by Western powers as irreversible unless a deal is struck soon.

The 2015 deal limited Iran’s enrichment of uranium to make it harder for Tehran to develop material for nuclear weapons, in return for a lifting of international sanctions against Tehran.

But it has eroded since 2018 when then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States and reimposed far-reaching sanctions on Iran. The Islamic Republic has since breached the deal’s limits and gone well beyond, rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, refining it to higher fissile purity and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up output.

“Iran is in a hurry to reach agreement in Vienna…, but this should be within the framework of our national interest,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told a news conference in Tehran.

He urged Western powers to stop “playing with time.”

Western leaders say time is running out for a viable accord and have accusing Iran of stalling to increase its leverage.

Parties involved in the talks, which resumed last week after a 10-day break, have voiced hope about restoring the pact despite what Tehran has said are “key outstanding issues that require political decisions by the West.”

“Talks are not at a dead end…Iran has already taken its political decision by staying in the deal despite the U.S. withdrawal,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Remaining gaps

A senior Iranian official told Reuters that “some 30% of difficult issues remain to be resolved but it is possible to reach a deal by early March.” A Western diplomat said “reaching a deal is possible around early March, if all goes well.”

After eight rounds of talks, key bones of contention include Iran’s demand for a U.S. guarantee of no more sanctions or other punitive steps in future, and how and when to restore verifiable restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity.

A second Iranian official said Tehran was also insisting on being able to seal and store its advanced centrifuges inside Iran, rather than dismantling and sending them abroad, as Western powers have called for.

He said Iran further wants the removal of some 300 extra sanctions on Iranian entities and individuals not related to the nuclear deal.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has said it will remove curbs inconsistent with the 2015 pact if Iran resumes compliance with it, implying Washington would leave in place sanctions imposed under terrorism or human rights measures.

U.S. officials have said the Biden administration cannot guarantee that a U.S. government would never renege on the agreement because it is classified as a non-binding political understanding, not a legally binding treaty.

Source: Voice of America

H. E. Nguema Obiang Mangue wants to regulate informal sector activities in country

The Equatoguinean Government is adopting strategies to make informal sector activities more profitable. Malabo is continuing to seek strategies to rebalance the Equatoguinean economy, which has been affected since the fall in oil prices in the second half of 2014.

On Wednesday, the Vice-President of the Council of Ministers, H. E. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, met heads of the government portfolios of Finance and Commerce, among others, to enquire about the payment of tax quotas in economic establishments in the informal sector operating in Equatorial Guinea.

According to Finance data, collected in the first business census in 2021 by the National Statistics Institute, around 32,141 economic establishments are operating in national territory, 23,691 of which are in the informal sector. In that sense, Nguema Obiang Mangue, who demands respect for Equatoguinean laws, ordered those present to urgently create an inter-ministerial commission with the aim, on the one hand, of verifying if the owners of the grocers’, car wash businesses, restaurants, vehicle repair shops and barbers, among others, pay the Tax Office. And, on the other, whether they have their documentation in order to carry out economic activities in the country.

For the Vice-President of the Republic, the idea is not to expatriate any citizen, but to give them the chance to put their respective situations in order and be able to exercise their commercial activities with all the paperwork in order.

Source: Official Web Page of the Government

Prime Minister receives Nigerian Ambassador in audience

On Thursday, the Prime Minister of the Government, Charged with Administrative Coordination, Francisco Pascual Obama Asue, received in audience, at the Presidency of the Government in Malabo II, the Extraordinary Plenipotentiary Ambassador from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ekpebike Steve Agbana, in a relaxed meeting at which they spoke about the various areas of cooperation that could be strengthened, in order to provide a fresh boost to the historic relations uniting the two peoples and countries.

This courtesy audience, which constituted the first meeting between the two figures, served to share impressions on the state of bilateral relations between these two neighbouring countries, which aim to strengthen the ties uniting them, in order to reach the level of brotherhood, with particular emphasis on the commercial sphere.

“We also considered ways and means to encourage entrepreneurs from both countries to meet and work together to create legal structures that will boost the growth of our countries’ economies.

According to statistical data released by INEGE; in 2020 Nigeria was Equatorial Guinea’s main commercial partner; this means that, in we continue to work together and take advantage of our proximity, promoting air, sea and even land transport, we will further strengthen our relations, so that the two countries can take full advantage”.

During the meeting, accompanying the representatives from the respective Governments, were for the Nigerian party, Madu J Chibueze , and for Equatorial Guinea the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Pedro Nguema Ndong, and the Advisers to the Presidency of the Government Charged with Administrative and Legal Affairs, Ángel Ndong Micha and Pedro Ondo Ngua, respectively.

Source: Official Web Page of the Government