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Biden and China’s Xi will hold virtual meeting on Monday

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November 13, 2021

By Michael Martina, David Brunnstrom and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden will hold a virtual meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday, the White House said, talks Washington hopes will create some stability amid increased tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

It is expected to be the leaders’ most extensive meeting under the Biden administration and will follow on from a telephone call between the two on Sept. 9.

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Washington and Beijing have been sparring on issues from the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic to China’s expanding nuclear arsenal https://www.reuters.com/world/pentagon-sharply-raises-its-estimate-chinese-nuclear-warheads-2021-11-03. U.S. officials believe direct engagement with Xi is the best way to prevent ties spiraling toward conflict.

“The two leaders will discuss ways to responsibly manage the competition … as well as ways to work together where our interests align,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “President Biden will make clear U.S. intentions and priorities and be clear and candid about our concerns.”

Beijing is also keen to avoid confrontation as Xi faces a crucial year ahead with China’s hosting of the Winter Olympic Games and a key Communist Party Congress where he looks to secure an unprecedented third term.

China’s foreign ministry said on Saturday the leaders would exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of common interests in the summit, which will take place on Tuesday morning in Asia.

A senior U.S. official said Biden would make clear he welcomes stiff competition with China, but doesn’t want conflict, and played down the likelihood of a long list of outcomes often tied to top-level meetings.

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“This is not about seeking specific deliverables or outcomes,” the official said, adding in reference to the People’s Republic of China: “As we compete with the PRC, President Biden expects President Xi and the PRC to play by the rules of road—and he will make that point throughout the meeting.”

The meeting will come after Biden signs a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal in a big ceremony on Monday to celebrate domestic renewal plans he believes will position the United States to out-compete China.

U.S. officials have played down the possibility of progress on trade, where China is lagging in a commitment to buy $200 billion more in U.S. goods and services.

China has nevertheless continued to push for relief from hundreds of billions of dollars of tariffs imposed under former President Donald Trump, arguing this could help both sides by easing inflation and boosting employment.

COMPETING VISIONS

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Biden and Xi outlined competing visions at meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum this week https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/biden-xi-address-asia-pacific-leaders-trade-covid-recovery-2021-11-12, with Biden stressing the U.S. commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” which Washington says faces increasing Chinese “coercion,” while Xi warned against a return to Cold War tensions.

Addressing APEC leaders on Friday, Xi spoke of the need to “stick to dialogue rather than confrontation, inclusiveness rather than exclusion, and integration rather than decoupling,” an apparent reference to U.S. moves to make key supply chains independent of China.

Climate is a priority for Biden, and China and the United States, the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, unveiled a deal https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/china-us-make-joint-statement-cop26-climate-summit-2021-11-10 at global talks in Glasgow this week to ramp up cooperation, including by cutting methane emissions, phasing out coal consumption and protecting forests.

However, the superpowers have clashed increasingly over self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own and that Washington is required to provide with the means to defend itself.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken angered China this week when he said Washington and its allies would take unspecified “action” if China were to use force to alter the Taiwan status quo, further muddying the long-held U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” as to whether the United States would respond militarily.

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Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi told Blinken in a call on Saturday that the United States should not send the wrong signals to Taiwan pro-independence forces, according a statement on the Chinese foreign ministry website.

“If the United States really wants to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait, it should clearly and resolutely oppose any Taiwan pro-independence behavior,” Wang said.

Wang and Blinken also exchanged views on areas including energy efficiency, climate change and the Iran nuclear issue and agreed to maintain dialogue on global challenges, China said.

Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia under the Obama administration, said both Biden and Xi were worried by the risk of a military incident escalating.

“Biden knows that the tools for prevention and crisis management are rusty, so we should expect him to push to put in place safeguards or ‘guardrails’ to reduce risk,” he said.

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Russel said the Sept. 9 Biden-Xi call began with Xi listing complaints, but ended with a constructive agreement for officials to continue discussions.

“This suggests that the personal relationship Biden built with Xi a decade ago is still strong, and that each conversation can add some stability to the mix.”

(Reporting by Michael Martina, David Brunnstrom, Trevor Hunnicutt and Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Heather Timmons and William Mallard)

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Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

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The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

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“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

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November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

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Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

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Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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