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Biden and Xi agree to look at possible arms control talks- Biden adviser

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November 16, 2021

By David Brunnstrom, Michael Martina and Tom Daly

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed at a virtual meeting to look into the possibility of arms control talks, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday.

Biden and Xi agreed to “look to begin to carry forward discussion on strategic stability,” Sullivan said in a reference to U.S. concerns about China’s nuclear and missile buildup https://www.reuters.com/world/pentagon-sharply-raises-its-estimate-chinese-nuclear-warheads-2021-11-03.

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“You will see at multiple levels an intensification of the engagement to ensure that there are guardrails around this competition so that it doesn’t veer off into conflict,” Sullivan said in a Brookings Institution webinar.

Sullivan did not elaborate on what form the discussions on strategic stability could take, but went on to say:

“That is not the same as what we have in the Russian context with the formal strategic stability dialogue. That is far more mature, has a much deeper history to it. There’s less maturity to that in the U.S.-China relationship, but the two leaders did discuss these issues and it is now incumbent on us to think about the most productive way to carry it forward.”

Washington has repeatedly urged China to join it and Russia in a new arms control treaty.

Beijing says the arsenals of the other two countries dwarf its own. It says it is ready to conduct bilateral dialogues on strategic security “on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”

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It was the two leaders’ most in-depth exchange since Biden took office in January.

Although they spoke for about 3-1/2 hours, the two leaders appeared to do little to narrow differences that have raised fears of an eventual conflict between the two superpowers.

The United States had envisioned the meeting putting stability into a relationship increasingly troubled over a litany of issues, including what Washington views as Beijing’s aggressive actions toward Chinese-claimed Taiwan.

Asked if there was any progress on tensions over the self-ruled island, Biden said: “Yes. We made very clear we support the Taiwan act and that’s it.

Biden was referring to the Taiwan Relations Act, a U.S. law that requires the United States to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, though Washington has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.

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“I said that they have to decide … Taiwan, not us,” Biden added later. “We are not encouraging independence.”

Xi told Biden in their meeting that China would take “decisive measures” in the event that Taiwan crosses Beijing’s red line in seeking independence.

Sullivan said Xi and Biden discussed a broad range of global economic issues, including how the United States and China can work together to ensure world energy supply and price volatility do not imperil the global economic recovery.

In the meeting Biden pressed his Chinese counterpart on human rights and Xi warned that China would respond to provocations on Taiwan https://www.reuters.com/world/biden-raised-concerns-over-xinjiang-tibet-hong-kong-xi-warns-taiwan-red-line-2021-11-16.

A senior U.S. official said in a briefing after the meeting that the U.S. aim was not to ease tensions, nor necessarily was that the result, and there were no breakthroughs to report.

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China’s state media cited unnamed Chinese foreign ministry sources as saying the two sides would ease restrictions on access for journalists from each other’s countries.

The China Daily newspaper said a consensus on journalist visas, among other points, was reached before the virtual meeting.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department gave similar details, saying China had committed to permit U.S. journalists already in the country to depart freely and return, which they had previously been unable to do. It said the United States planned to facilitate similar treatment for Chinese journalists.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina in Washington, Steve Holland in Manchester, and Tom Daly in Beijing; Editing by Heather Timmons, Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman)

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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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