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Pressure mounts on Beijing in the South China Sea

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In the latest sign of continuity in US policy in Asia, the newly-inaugurated Biden administration is toughening its stance on Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea.  

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In its latest Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea, the Pentagon deployed the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell well into the 12 nautical mile zone around the Chinese-claimed islands in the Spratlys. 

Only weeks earlier, another US warship, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS John McCain, conducted a similar operation in the Paracel Islands, which is contested by China and Vietnam. The Biden administration also oversaw the Pentagon’s first dual-carrier operation this year, featuring drills by the Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Groups in the area. 

The new US leadership’s expanded naval deployments to the area have coincided with toughening diplomatic posturing. The US State Department lambasted Beijing’s recently-passed controversial China Coast Guard Law, calling it a source of deep “concern” and likely part of the Asian superpower’s broader effort to coercively “assert its unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea.” 

Danone

Beijing’s new maritime law has provoked outrage among US’ allies in Asia, since it calls on China’s massive fleet of coast guard forces, along with auxiliary paramilitary vessels, to use “all means necessary,” including shooting at “intruders,” across the contested waters.  



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US fingers MBS as murderer, eschews sanctions

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The United States on Friday for the first time publicly accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of approving the gruesome murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, unveiling a raft of punitive measures but stopping short of directly targeting the powerful heir apparent.

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The prince, who is de facto ruler of the longtime US ally and oil provider, “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” said an intelligence report newly declassified by President Joe Biden’s administration.

The report said that given Prince Mohammed’s influence, it was “highly unlikely” that the 2018 murder could have taken place without his green light. The killing also fit a pattern of “the crown prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad.”

Khashoggi, a critic of Prince Mohammed who wrote for The Washington Post and was a US resident, was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, then killed and cut into pieces.

Danone

The Treasury Department announced it was freezing assets and criminalizing transactions with a former intelligence official as well as the Rapid Intervention Force, an elite unit that the report said “exists to defend the crown prince” and “answers only to him.”



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The tiger the central banks have by the tail isn’t inflation – it’s deficits

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The “taper tantrum” of 2013 ubiquitously mentioned as a precedent for today’s market was prompted by soaring inflation. As the first chart makes clear, inflation expectations embedded in Treasury bond yields went vertical as the Fed brought real interest rates down.

Chic Me - World

Nothing like that has happened this year: the real yield (as measured by the yield on the 5-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Security) moved in a straight line with inflation expectations (so-called “breakeven inflation”).

Central banks scrambled to talk the market down from the ledge on Feb. 26 after a pop in Treasury yields send world equity markets plunging. They aren’t worried about inflation, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell has said repeatedly. But they are worried about financing a US budget deficit equal to 16% of GDP, something the US hasn’t seen since the Second World War.

A run out of Treasury bonds in the face of $3.5 trillion of new Treasury bond issuance this year could get bloody. So the Fed will do whatever it takes to keep bond buyers coming in rather than bailing out.

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Emirati-Chinese drone link-up revealed at IDEX: source

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The proverbial cat is out of the bag at the 2021 IDEX military show in Abu Dhabi.

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Back in November 2020, China North Industries Group Corporation Limited (NORINCO) announced its Golden Eagle CR500 vertical take-off and landing UAV had completed final inspections and been cleared for delivery to an undisclosed costumer.

We now know who that customer is.

According to a report by Chyrine Mezher for Breaking Defense and quoting an anonymous source, the UAE army plans to buy a bunch of new Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles.

Danone

“The deals could include 10 to 15 Golden Eagle CR500 helo drones fitted with Red Arrow 12 missiles, and 20 MR40 unmanned aircraft fitted with BBE-2 bombs,” the official said, adding that both deals will approximately cost US$9 million and US$7 million respectively.



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Three saw war, heroism from different perspective

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Elizabeth Becker, You Don’t Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War, Public Affairs Books, $16.99.

Chic Me - World

The first time I dealt with small arms fire, I was in a wooden tower buttressed with sandbags looking out over Highway 1 which ran to Saigon. I was on guard duty sometime before midnight when the shift would change. I was trying to stay awake when I heard ka-rack and saw red tracer rounds arcing over my head.

I knew that every eighth round was a tracer, so there were a bunch of rounds I didn’t see. I knelt behind the sandbags, my rifle resting on top, my helmet tipped forward and peed my pants.

Multiply that little scene by a million and you might get close to what three amazing women did for several years during the Vietnam War. To use a grunt phrase, they wanted to be “in the shit.” They got their wish.

Danone

Catherine Leroy, a 5-foot tall, 87-pound, brown-haired French photographer; Frances FitzGerald, an East Coast blue-blood American writer; and Kate Webb, a New Zealand-born reporter who moved to Australia at age 8 and who later had a black hole in her past.



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Hopes for HK-mainland ‘border reopening’ dim

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Hopes for quarantine-free travel from Hong Kong to mainland China were dampened by a recent virus outbreak centered in a restaurant in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui.

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At least 30 people, who worked or dined at a restaurant called Mr. Ming’s Chinese Dining, in luxury shopping mall K11 Musea, were infected or tested positive preliminarily in the past few days, Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of the communicable diseases branch at the Center for Health Protection said at a media briefing on Friday.

A cleaner, who was responsible for clearing tables at the restaurant, developed a cough on February 18 and could have spread the coronavirus to his colleagues and the restaurant’s customers during the lunch hour on February 19, Chuang said.

The man could be a “super-spreader” and his condition remained critical, she said.

Danone

“It’s possible that he’s a super-spreader, but we can never confirm this fact. We’re tracing the other customers in order not to miss anyone who might be infected,” she said.



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Putin, crusaders and barbarians – Asia Times

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Moscow is painfully aware that the US/NATO “strategy” of containment of Russia is already reaching fever pitch. Again.

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This past Wednesday, at a very important meeting with the Federal Security Service board, President Putin laid it all out in stark terms:

We are up against the so-called policy of containing Russia. This is not about competition, which is a natural thing for international relations. This is about a consistent and quite aggressive policy aimed at disrupting our development, slowing it down, creating problems along the outer perimeter, triggering domestic instability, undermining the values that unite Russian society, and ultimately to weaken Russia and put it under external control, just the way we are witnessing it transpire in some countries in the post-Soviet space.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting of the Federal Security Service Board in Moscow on February 24. Photo: AFP / Alexei Druzhinin / Sputnik

Not without a touch of wickedness, Putin added this was no exaggeration: “In fact, you don’t need to be convinced of this as you yourselves know it perfectly well, perhaps even better than anybody else.”

The Kremlin is very much aware “containment” of Russia focuses on its perimeter: Ukraine, Georgia and Central Asia. And the ultimate target remains regime change.

Danone



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