From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE EAST 2020 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER"

    This file is attached to http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/BeastThatCameOutOfTheSea.htm from “Beast That Came Out Of The Sea” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
Or return to the Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.
    This link will return you to King Of The East 2020 July-August or contnue to King Of The East 2020 November-December.

KING OF THE EAST 2020 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER


    So as 2019 has passed do we know who the "King of the East" is?
    As Bible students, we all are aware of the allusions to the "Kings of the East" in the prophetic scenario: "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared."    Revelation 16:12.
       
    The spectacular rise of China on the world scene, and achievements are spectacular, indeed.    In just one generation, they have tripled their per capita income, and lifted over 300 million people out of poverty.
    Xi Jinping is still president for life and continues to push "Belt And Road Project" fits the scenerio to fulfil prophecy to go into the Middle East at the appointed time.
    He continues to push the unconditional authority of the Communist Party, and controversial territorial claims in the South China Sea, boosted its military capabilities and unveiled a vast international logistics and transportation project called the “Belt and Road” initiative that aims to connect Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, so I believe the The King of the East has made his bed and have become the major competitor for energy and other commodities.
    As to the emergence of India in the global technological culture Idid not see much of that in 2019 to dominate the next few decades in research and development centers are sprouting everywhere and are the seedbeds of the most advanced software platforms, multimedia devices, and other next-generation innovations and India's Prime Minister is still Narendra Modi.
    China and India account for one-third of the world's population.
    Although numerous commentators try to connect these kings with the 200 million horsemen of the sixth trumpet judgment, they are not related: as Rev. 16:12 only says "way of the kings of the east might be prepared."    This tells me that it could be several countries from the Kings of the East could take that journey.
    The “two hundred million” is in Rev. 9:16 are in a Trumpet Judgment, whereas the kings of the east are in a Bowl judgment.    Furthermore, . . . it was shown that the two hundred million are demons and not men.
    As to kings from the Orient, but this is not required by the text, they are kings representing nations east of the Euphrates.    Commentators particularly of the postmillennial and the historical schools have guessed at the identity of the kings of the East and as many as fifty different interpretations have been advanced.    The very number of these interpretations is their refutation.

    As to cooperation for China and the U.S. in 2019, China threatens retaliation if tariffs increase as trade war bites and China’s Xi preaches openness.    China’s 2019 growth was seen slowing to 6.2% as trade war weighs on China’s June exports, and imports fall as trade war takes heavier toll.    China lets yuan break key 7 level for first time in decade as trade war worsens.    China’s birth rate falls to lowest ever.    China lawmakers urge freeing up family planning as birth rates plunge U.S.
    Italy's PM wants to sign “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), deal to help exports championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who aims to link China by sea and land with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, through an infrastructure network on the lines of the ancient Silk Road.    A number of European Union states have signed memorandums on the BRI with China, including Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Malta, Poland and Portugal.    If Italy signs, it would be the first members of the Group of Seven industrial powers to do so.    China Development Bank has provided over $190 billion for Belt and Road projects.
    Taiwan tells China to use peaceful means to resolve differences and Taiwan president calls for international support to defend democracy.    U.S. warships pass through Taiwan Strait amid China tensions and China’s Xi threatens Taiwan with force but also seeks peaceful ‘reunification.’    U.S., Japan, India and Philippines challenge Beijing with naval drills in the South China Sea.    And a miracle win offers Australian PM authority and government stability.    U.S. pursues sale of over $2 billion in weapons to Taiwan, which is angering China.    Premier Li says China opposes Taiwan independence.
    Afghan Taliban and the U.S. sat down to peace talks, but the Taliban talks end with no Afghan peace deal.
    U.S. sanctions are putting pressure on Iran and Iranians, and supreme leader.    Iran says it is taking initial steps to design reactor fuel, and could enrich uranium to 20 percent within four days as atomic chiefIran says it will be ready for new satellite launch.    U.S. sanctions hit Iran-backed airlines, fighters in Syria and Iranian commander threatens Israel’s destruction if it attacks, while Iran is facing the toughest economic situation in 40 years.    The president of Iran facing economic difficulty amid U.S. pressure on regime and Iran’s Rouhani says U.S. sanctions are ‘terrorist act.’    Iran’s Khamenei doubted Europe could help Tehran against U.S. sanctions.    Iran urged Palestinians to resist Trump’s pro-Israel moves.    U.S. designated elite Iranian force as terrorist organization, and Iran kept enriching uranium in despite.    Hardliners target Iran’s president as U.S. pressure grows.    Iran claims youth will witness demise of Israel and ‘American civilization.’    Iran’s Khamenei says Tehran will not abandon its missile program and will increase uranium enrichment to whatever levels it needs and will boost uranium enrichment level which will breach nuclear pact.
    Thousands march in Hong Kong against China ‘repression’ on 3/15/2019 protesters were arrested in Hong Kong over proposed China extradition law.    Hong Kong lawmakers clash over what democrats call ‘evil’ extradition bill.    Hong Kong leader presses on with extradition bill undeterred.    Huge Hong Kong protest expected in last push to scrap extradition bill    Hundreds of thousands march in Hong Kong to protest China ‘Sea of black’    Hong Kong protesters demand leader step down extradition bill    Embattled Hong Kong leader Lam suspends China extradition bill.    Black-clad, anti-extradition protesters flood streets of Hong Kong Hong Kong descends into chaos as protesters storm legislature.    In challenge to Beijing, Hong Kong activists attempt to take fight to mainland.    Anti-Chinese protests in Hong Kong turn violent.    Protesters mass in Hong Kong amid fears of growing cycle of violence.
    Trump walks away from deal with North Korea’s Kim over sanctions demand and was ending the year with new Trade deals with China as the U.S. economy is up in all items.

    Since Iran has become more of an issue during 2019 I decided to input the following again regarding Jeremiah 49:35-39 New King James Version (NKJV) PROPHESY OF ELAM to let you know what the Bible says about them and their possible future.
35Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, The foremost of their might.
36 Against Elam I will bring the four winds From the four quarters of heaven, And scatter them toward all those winds; There shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.
37 For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies And before those who seek their life.    I will bring disaster upon them, My fierce anger,’ says the Lord; ‘And I will send the sword after them Until I have consumed them.
38 I will set My throne in Elam, And will destroy from there the king and the princes,’ says the Lord.
39 ‘But it shall come to pass in the latter days: I will bring back the captives of Elam,’ says the Lord.”
   
    Elam in the Hebrew Bible is said to be one of the sons of Shem, the son of Noah.    It is also used, for the ancient country of Elam in what is now southern Iran, whose people the Hebrews believed to be the offspring of Elam, son of Shem.    This implies that the Elamites were considered Semites by the Hebrews.
    Elam in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 10:22, Ezra 4:9;) is said to be one of the sons of Shem, the son of Noah.    It is also used (as in Akkadian), for the ancient country of Elam in what is now southern Iran, whose people the Hebrews believed to be the offspring of Elam, son of Shem (Genesis 10:22).    This implies that the Elamites were considered Semites by the Hebrews.    Their language was not one of the Semitic languages, but is considered a linguistic isolate.
    Elam (the nation) is also mentioned in Genesis 14, describing an ancient war in the time of Abram (father of the tribe, for possibles leaders over time) not Abraham, (father of many nations) involving Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam at that time, and noted that Sarai, Princess of the tribe, who became the final as Sarah.
    The prophecies of the Book of Isaiah (11:11, 21:2, 22:6) and the Book of Jeremiah (25:25) also mention Elam.    The last part of Jeremiah 49 is an apocalyptic oracle against Elam which states that Elam will be scattered to the four winds of the earth, but "will be, in the end of days, that I will return their captivity," a prophecy self-dated to the first year of Zedekiah (597 BC).
    The Book of Jubilees may reflect ancient tradition when it mentions a son (or daughter, in some versions) of 'Elam named "Susan," whose daughter Rasuaya married Arpachshad, progenitor of another branch of Shemites.    Shushan (or Susa) was the ancient capital of the Elamite Empire. (Dan. 8:2)



2020 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER

9/1/2020 Iran’s Khamenei: UAE ‘Disgraced Forever’ By Israel Deal
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech on the occasion of the
Iranian New Year Nowruz, in Tehran, Iran March 20, 2020. Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates has betrayed the Islamic world and the Palestinians by reaching a deal toward normalising ties with Israel, Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech on Tuesday.
    “Of course, the UAE’s betrayal will not last long, but this stigma will always be remembered.    They allowed the Zionist regime to have a foothold in the region and forgot Palestine,” Khamenei said.
    “The Emiratis will be disgraced forever for this treachery against the Islamic world, Arab nations and Palestine.”
    Khamenei’s comments came as a delegation of senior Israeli and U.S. officials, including White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, concluded a historic trip to Abu Dhabi to finalise the pact.
    “The UAE along with Israelis and evil Americans like the Jewish member of Trump’s family are working together against the interests of the Islamic world,” Khamenei said, referring to Kushner.
    “I hope Emiratis wake up and compensate for what they did.”
    The delegation arrived in Abu Dhabi on an El Al flight on Monday, the first direct commercial passenger flight between the UAE and Israel.
    The deal, the first accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years, was forged in part as a result of shared fear of Iran.    It has dismayed Palestinian leaders, however, who believe it further erodes their struggle for an independent state.
    The Trump administration has tried to coax other Sunni Muslim Arab countries concerned about mainly Shi’ite Iran to engage with Israel.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alison Williams and Catherine Evans)

9/1/2020 India Leads Global Rise In New Weekly COVID-19 Cases, While Deaths Down: WHO by Stephanie Nebehay
    GENEVA (Reuters) – India reported the most new COVID-19 cases of any country in the past week, its nearly half a million fresh infections pushing the global tally up by 1 percent, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
    Overall global new deaths in the past seven days fell by 3% compared to the previous week, the WHO reported, adding that overall new infections around the world rose by 1.8 million.
    The respiratory disease is also spreading in the Americas, which continues to account for more than half of reported cases and deaths worldwide, although there have been slight decreases in some areas, WHO said in its latest update.
    Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina have seen “increasing trends,” it said.
    Spain, Russia, France, and Ukraine reported the highest number of new cases in Europe in the week to Aug. 30, with a resurgence in Spain matching peaks seen last March and April, the U.N. agency said.    New cases in Italy jumped by 85%, it said.
    “South-East Asia has reported the largest week-on-week increase, largely due to increased case detections in India,” the WHO said.    “India has reported nearly 500,000 new cases in the past seven days, a 9% increase compared to the previous seven days and the highest numbers of new cases globally.”
    In Africa, cases in Ethiopia reached “new highs,” while South Africa – which has the fifth most infections globally and the highest number on the vast continent – has continued a downward trend, it said.
    Several previous hotspots – including Ghana, Kenya, Gabon and Madagascar – have recorded fewer new cases, the WHO said, adding: “…the figures should be interpreted cautiously as they may be affected by many factors, including the current testing capacity and strategy, and delays in reporting.”
    Rates have fluctuated in the WHO’s eastern Mediterranean region, with the latest highest case numbers seen in Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, it said.
    More than 25.44 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally since the new coronavirus emerged in China late last year and 847,965 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Editing by William Maclean)

9/1/2020 Canberra Says Not Told Why Australian Journalist Detained In China by Kirsty Needham
FILE PHOTO: Australia's Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham (R) and South Australia's Premier Stephen Marshall
visit a cafe during a visit to Kangaroo Island, Australia January 19, 2020. REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia does not know why Chinese authorities have detained Australian citizen and television anchor Cheng Lei, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Tuesday, adding to the mystery why the journalist has been taken into custody.
    The Australian government confirmed on Monday evening that Cheng, a high-profile business anchor on Chinese state television, was detained two weeks ago.
    “Cheng Lei is an Australian, a journalist who has been working in China for some period of time,” Birmingham told ABC radio, adding authorities in Canberra did not know why she was detained.
    “I feel for her family very much at this point in time, and it’s why we will do what we can to assist her, as we would and have any Australian in these sorts of circumstances,” he added.
    Cheng hosted a business show on the English channel of China’s largest state media broadcaster, CCTV, and was a high-profile anchor on its English-language channel CGTN.    But videos of her have been removed from Chinese state media websites, Reuters found.
    Friends of Cheng told Reuters they noticed the videos were taken down two weeks ago, about the time of her detention, and they became concerned when they were unable to contact her. They also said they did not know why she was detained.
    Cheng regularly hosted Australian business forums and events in Beijing.    She was well known in the Australian business community in China.
    Authorities in China have not released information on her detention.    China’s foreign ministry declined to comment on the specifics of Cheng’s case at a regular briefing on Tuesday, but said China will act in accordance with law.
    “We value China-Australia relations, but at the same time, the development of bilateral relations requires the joint efforts of both sides,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in response to a question about whether the case was linked to Cheng’s nationality and recent issues in the Sino-Australian relationship.
‘DEGREE OF SCEPTICISM’
    The Australian embassy was given consular access to Cheng via video link on Aug. 27, Birmingham said.    Cheng has two children, both in Australia.
    Australia’s former ambassador to China, Geoff Raby, a business consultant, said Cheng was a longtime friend and experienced journalist who had interviewed him many times for her business programme.
    Business reporting is not usually seen as politically sensitive in China, he said, adding that he was astonished she had been detained.
    “She held a degree of scepticism towards some Chinese media, but she was equally strong in arguing China’s case if foreign reporting mischaracterized China or was not based on facts,” Raby told Reuters.
    A statement released by Cheng’s family on Monday night said they are in close contact with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on her case and “look forward to a satisfactory and timely conclusion to the matter.”
    Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne told local radio on Tuesday afternoon the Australian government has sought information on why Cheng was detained.
    “The process within the Chinese system does not require the laying of charges at this point, but we’ll continue to seek information about that,” Payne said.
    The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement that Chinese authorities should disclose their reasons for holding Cheng or release her.
    Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator, said, “China – the world’s number one jailer of journalists – must make clear whether her detention has anything to do with her media work.”
    Tensions between Australia and China have been high this year, after Australia in April called for an international investigation into the source of the coronavirus pandemic.
    Beijing has said it was angered by the move, and has since blocked Australian beef imports, placed dumping tariffs on Australian barley, and launched an anti-dumping investigation into Australian wine.
    Birmingham told television network Nine that many of the trade measures lacked substance.
    “I’ve been very concerned at the number of different trade issues that have come our way this year, that I think changes the risk profile for Australian businesses in engaging with China,” he said.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/1/2020 ‘I Am Taiwanese’ Czech Speaker Tells Parliament, Riling China
Czech Senate chairman Milos Vystrcil delivers a speech at an investment forum in Taipei, Taiwan, August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – The head of the Czech Senate declared himself to be Taiwanese in a speech at Taiwan’s parliament on Tuesday, channelling late U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s defiance of Communism in Berlin in 1963, further riling Beijing.
    China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has threatened to make Czech Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil pay a “heavy price” for visiting the island. The Czech Republic, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
    Addressing Taiwan’s parliament, Vystrcil, who is leading a delegation of about 90 politicians and business executives, said Kennedy’s declaration he was a Berliner was an important message for freedom and against Communism.
    “Please let me also express in person my support to Taiwan and the ultimate value of freedom and conclude today’s speech … with perhaps a more humble, but equally strong statement: ‘I am a Taiwanese’,” Vystrcil said, receiving a standing ovation.
    In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Vystrcil was openly supporting separatism and interfering in China’s internal affairs.
    “China strongly condemns this,” Hua told reporters.
    Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963, telling the frightened people of West Berlin who were surrounded on all sides by Communist East Berlin that he was also a Berliner, is an address often called Kennedy’s best.
    Vystrcil has said his Taiwan visit underscores the “values-based” foreign policy put in place by late President Vaclav Havel, an anti-communist dissident and personal friend of the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama.
    While the Czech government has not supported his visit, it has been upset by China’s strong condemnation and has summoned the Chinese ambassador.    Beijing on Monday also summoned the Czech ambassador for a telling-off.
    Czech President Milos Zeman has sought closer business and political ties with China since taking office in 2013, but his efforts have been hit by failed investment plans and Czech wavering about allowing China’s Huawei Technologies to play a role in developing next-generation telecoms networks.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossely in Beijing; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/1/2020 In Indonesia, Coronavirus Floods Cisadane River With Extra Hazard: Medical Waste by Yuddy Cahya Budiman and Tommy Ardiansyah
Eka Purwanti, a 37-year-old local, washes clothes at Cisadane river in Tangerang, Banten
province, Indonesia, August 2, 2020. Picture taken August 2, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    TANGERANG, Indonesia (Reuters) – For the residents along Indonesia’s Cisadane River, the coronavirus has brought not just deadly disease, but also a deluge of medical waste: a constant stream of syringes, face masks and hazmat suits floating by.
    The double threat for those who depend on the 138-kilometre-long river to bathe and wash their clothes comes as Indonesia has struggled to contain COVID-19, now with the highest death toll in Southeast Asia, and in the past week almost 3,000 new infections a day.
    As the virus has spread, medical waste had been piling up at Cipeucang landfill in Tangerang, part of the sprawling metropolis of the capital Jakarta.
    In May the landfill’s walls collapsed, sending tons of garbage straight into the Cisadane’s khaki green waters.     “I still worry to be honest, but I have to wash here,” local resident Eka Purwanti, 36, told Reuters, as she did her laundry in the river, and children played on the riverbank, “I hope nothing will happen, although I know it’s a deadly disease.”
    Like countries around the world, Indonesia has seen the pandemic bring a huge increase in medical waste, an issue that has raised concern in places from Spain to Thailand and India.
    In the months since the landfill collapsed, Ade Yunus, founder of the Cisadane River Rubbish Bank, has been working to cleaning up the waterway.
    “The first time we found medical waste was after the landslide,” said Yunus, bending down to pick up a syringe and deposit it in a safe box.    “In the beginning, we found around 50-60 items every day.”
    Indonesia’s health ministry acknowledged the problem – saying 1,480 tons of COVID-19 medical waste was produced across the country from March through June – and admitted the country lacked treatment facilities, but was working on solutions.
    “A new regulation has just passed that included guidelines around medical waste treatment in every health facility,” said ministry official, Imran Agus Nurali.
    Most health facilities in Indonesia, including hospitals, currently rely on third parties to incinerate their waste.
    The deluge has raised fears among public health experts that the medical waste could spread the disease, with those in riverside communities at high risk.
    “If this medical waste spreads in the residential area near the river then it could potentially pollute the water that is used by people there,” said Mahesa Paranadipa Maikel, an epidemiologist from the Indonesian Law Health Society, “It could potentially result in the transmission of COVID-19.”
    By the river, it’s a risk residents recognise.
    “I worry if the children could get infected with COVID-19 when they swim here,” said Cisadane local Astri Dewiyani.    “That’s why I always forbid my kids to swim at the river.”
(Additional reporting by Johan Purnomo; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

9/1/2020 Hong Kong Begins China-Led Mass Coronavirus Testing, Critics Urge Boycott
Swab sample is collected from a man by medical staff at the community testing centre for the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) in Hong Kong, China September 1, 2020. Anthony Kwan/Pool via REUTERS
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong began free coronavirus testing for all residents in the Asian financial hub on Tuesday, as the mainland Chinese-led initiative faced scepticism from the city’s medical community and public, with some activists urging a boycott.
    The initiative began at 8.00 am (0000 GMT), with a 60-strong mainland team conducting tests.    It is the first direct help from China’s health officials for the semi-autonomous city as it battles the pandemic.
    The scheme has emerged as a politically charged issue, with authorities in Hong Kong and China saying critics are trying to smear the central government.
    Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a regular press briefing the testing was necessary to find invisible transmissions within society and urged medical workers to treat the testing “objectively and professionally.”
    The issue comes at a sensitive time with anxiety running high about what many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents see as Beijing’s efforts to rein in their freedoms, in particular with a national security law imposed in June.
    Lam said at the news conference that Hong Kong’s executive, legislative and judicial powers are derived from Beijing.
    “Our power is from the central government’s authorization to Hong Kong,” she said in comments that are likely to stoke further concern that the city has taken a more authoritarian turn.
    China’s offer to test residents comes as the number of new daily cases in the former British colony has fallen substantially, to single- or low double-digits, from triple-digits during the latest surge in cases a few weeks ago.
    Nearly 600,000 people have signed up for the free testing, with people lining up on Tuesday at the 141 test centres across the city.
    A Hong Kong pro-democracy union of healthcare workers and several activists called on Sunday for a boycott of the scheme.
    Some democracy activists have suggested that people’s DNA will be collected and abused under the cover of testing.    The government has dismissed that saying no samples would be taken out of the city.
    The volume of testing is due to increase to 500,000 a day from about 12,000 previously, authorities have said.
    “Doing the testing will set my mind and others’ at ease,” said a 68-year old woman surnamed Cheung, as she queued outside a sports centre used for testing.
(Reporting by Joyce Zhou and Clare Jim; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/1/2020 Wuhan Students Go Back To School by OAN Newsroom
Students attend a ceremony to kick off the new semester in Wuhan High School in Wuhan in central China’s
Hubei province Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. Chinese students began a full return to regular classes Tuesday
following two weeks without new cases of local transmission in the country. (Chinatopix Via AP)
    Schools in Wuhan, China have reopened after the loosening of local regulations.    Authorities in the city, which was the original epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, announced all schools will resume session Tuesday.
    Some local universities already began holding classes Monday.    More than 2,800 schools are set to open their doors across the city and around 1.4 million students will be returning to class.
    The city has implemented an emergency plan to return to online learning in the event of another spike in local virus cases. Students have also been advised to wear masks to and from school and avoid public transportation.
    “Usually students don’t need to wear masks on campuses.    They should carry disposable medical face masks or those of the same standard.    They should wash hands before touching eyes, noses and mouths, and after touching suspicious contaminant.    They should wash hands in a right way with flowing water and hand sanitizer or soap. Alcohol-based hand rub is also available” — Li Junlin, Director – Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention
    The city has not reported any new local cases of COVID-19 since May 18.

9/2/2020 Japan’s Suga Says To Run For Ruling Party Leadership Race, Wants To Avoid Vacuum by Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto
FILE PHOTO: Japan's top government spokesman Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga smiles
during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo, Japan August 26, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declared on Wednesday he would run for the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, a race he is heavily favoured to win to become the next prime minister.
    Suga, a longtime aide to outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said he was entering the race to avoid a political vacuum during the pandemic.    Should he win, Suga is widely expected to continue Abe’s policies of fiscal and monetary stimulus.
    “I thought deeply as a politician and as somebody who supported the Abe administration what I should do.    As a result, I made the decision to stand as a candidate for the leadership of the LDP,” Suga told reporters.
    “In this time of national crisis, we cannot permit a political vacuum.”
    Abe announced his decision to resign last week, citing poor health.    The LDP’s majority in the lower house of parliament will ensure the party’s next leader will succeed him as prime minister.
    Suga’s main competitors in the Sept. 14 party vote are a former defence minister, Shigeru Ishiba, and ex-foreign minister Fumio Kishida, but Suga’s position looks strong.
    He has secured the backing of five of the LDP’s seven factions, public broadcaster NHK and others reported.
    The party decided on Tuesday to hold a slimmed-down election with just members of parliament and three votes from each of the 47 prefectures – an advantage for Suga.
    Many party chapters will poll rank-and-file members to decide how to allocate their three votes, but experts say this is unlikely to change the momentum growing for Suga if the members of the five factions back him.
    Financial markets also favour Suga, assuming he will continue with the reflationary “Abenomics” strategy aimed at reviving the economy.
    The veteran politician has repeatedly talked about the need to quickly bring back tourism to help revitalise Japan’s regional economies, which were hobbled even before the pandemic by ageing, shrinking populations.
    On Wednesday, he underscored that theme again, saying he would push forward Abenomics policies and work to help struggling regions.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Kaori Kaneko; Additional reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto and Elaine Lies; Writing by Chang-Ran Kim and David Dolan; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Robert Birsel and Simon Cameron-Moore)

9/2/2020 China Will Gradually Resume Direct International Flights To Beijing
FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak are seen
at Beijing Daxing International Airport in Beijing, China July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Suen
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s aviation regulator said on Wednesday it will resume direct flights to Beijing from eight countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Greece, Denmark, Sweden and Canada from Sept. 3.
    In March, Chinese authorities ordered all international flights to Beijing to be diverted to other airports as their first port of entry, as the capital stepped up measures to battle imported infections.
    The Civil Aviation Administration of China said it would reimpose such curbs if more than three passengers test positive for the coronavirus upon arrival and load factors on such flights would be strictly controlled.
(Reporting by Stella Qiu, Lusha Zhang and Brenda Goh; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

9/2/2020 Beijing Rejects U.S. Report On Chinese Warheads
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying speaks at a
news conference in Beijing, China July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday rejected a U.S. report that Beijing was expected to double the number of its nuclear warheads.
    The Pentagon said on Tuesday that China is expected to at least double the number of its nuclear warheads over the next decade from the low 200s now.
    Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of the Chinese foreign ministry, told a news briefing that the report is filled with bias.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

9/2/2020 India Secures Its East After Western Himalaya Clashes With China by Krishna N. Das
FILE PHOTO: A signboard is seen from the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla, in
the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, November 11, 2009. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) – India has moved troops to its eastern stretch of border with China since clashes erupted between the nuclear-armed rivals on the western part of their border in the Himalayas in June, a government official said.
    The June clash in the Ladakh region, in the western part of their border, was the worst violence between the Asian giants in decades and there has been little sign of a reduction in tension, with more military action in the past week.
    The movement of troops to the eastern district of Anjaw, in Arunachal Pradesh state, which China also claims, raises the prospect of a wider face-off though both government and military officials in India ruled out any imminent confrontation.
    “The military presence has surely increased, but as far as incursions are concerned, there are no verified reports as such,” said Ayushi Sudan, Anjaw’s chief civil servant, adding that several Indian army battalions were stationed there.
    “There has been an increase in troop deployment since the Galwan incident, and even prior to that we’d started,” she told Reuters by telephone, referring to the June clash in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
    Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls South Tibet, was at the centre of a full-scale border war between India and China in 1962, and security analysts have warned that it could become a flash-point again.
    But an Indian military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Harsh Wardhan Pande, said there was no cause for concern and the troops arriving in the area were part of regular rotation.
    “Basically, it’s units changing.    That’s happening as it happens every time, nothing much,” Pande told Reuters from near Guwahati, the largest city in northeastern India.
    “As of now, there’s nothing to worry about on that front.”
    But Tapir Gao, a member of parliament from Arunachal, told Reuters that Chinese troops had been regularly crossing into Indian territory.
    “It’s a regular phenomenon, it’s nothing new,” he said, identifying the Walong and Chaglagam areas in Anjaw as the most vulnerable.
    In the 1962 war, India says its outnumbered forces “blocked the thrust of the invading Chinese” in Walong, and the area of mountains, meadows and fast-flowing rivers is now a government focus for settlement and road-building.
    “What we’re trying to do is create more possibilities and opportunities for villagers,” said Sudan, referring to plans for clusters of villages in the disputed area.
    “It’s a push to resettle people.”
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel)

9/2/2020 U.S. To Require Approvals On Work Of Chinese Diplomats In America by Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund, before U.S. trade delegation meet their
Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Wednesday it would now require senior Chinese diplomats to get State Department approval before visiting U.S. university campuses and holding cultural events with more than 50 people outside mission grounds.
    Washington cast the move as a response to what it said was Beijing’s restrictions on American diplomats based in China.    It comes as part of a Trump administration campaign against alleged Chinese influence operations and espionage activity.
    The State Department said it also would take action to help ensure all Chinese embassy and consular social media accounts were “properly identified.”
    “We’re simply demanding reciprocity. Access for our diplomats in China should be reflective of the access that Chinese diplomats in the United States have, and today’s steps will move us substantially in that direction'” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a news briefing.
    It was the latest U.S. step to restrict Chinese activity in the United States in the run-up to the November presidential election, in which President Donald Trump has made a tough approach to China a key foreign policy platform.
    Pompeo also said Keith Krach, the State Department’s undersecretary for Economic Growth, had written recently to the governing boards of U.S. universities alerting them to threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
    “These threats can come in the form of illicit funding for research, intellectual property theft, intimidation of foreign students and opaque talent recruitment efforts,” Pompeo said.
    He said universities could ensure they had clean investments and endowment funds, “by taking a few key steps to disclose all (Chinese) companies’ investments invested in the endowment funds, especially those in emerging-market index funds.”
    On Tuesday, Pompeo said he was hopeful Chinese Confucius Institute cultural centers on U.S. university campuses, which he accused of working to recruit “spies and collaborators,” would all be shut by the end of the year.
    Last month, Pompeo labeled the center that manages the dozens of Confucius Institutes in the United States “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence” and required it to register as a foreign mission.
    The State Department announced in June it would start treating four major Chinese media outlets as foreign embassies, calling them mouthpieces for Beijing.
    It took the same step against five other Chinese outlets in February, and in March said it was slashing the number of journalists allowed to work at U.S. offices of major Chinese media outlets to 100 from 160 due to Beijing’s “long-standing intimidation and harassment of journalists.”
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)

9/3/2020 Backroom Deals, Old-School Politics Help Rise Of Japan’s Likely New Premier by Linda Sieg and Sakura Murakami
FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker, drinks water during a news conference to
announce his candidacy for the party's leadership election, in Tokyo, Japan, September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s ruling party has yet to vote on a successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe but his loyal lieutenant looks set to win the post, the result of backroom maneuvering and bargaining that began months before Abe said he’d quit over ill health.
    Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s chief cabinet secretary, emerged this week as the frontrunner in the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) Sept. 14 leadership race when five of the party’s seven factions backed him, before he even announced his candidacy on Wednesday.
    The new LDP leader is almost guaranteed to become prime minister because of the party’s majority in parliament’s lower house.
    The choice of Suga highlights the lingering influence of factions and old-school, personal politics and his alliance with the LDP’s chief manager of party funds, rather than policy debates, party insiders say.
    However, the image of backroom dealing – muted during Abe’s nearly eight years in office – could dent Suga’s credibility with voters in a general election that must be held by late 2021.
    “There’s no way that the leader gets elected as a result of a debate over policy, it’s impossible,” said Shizuka Kamei, 83, a former LDP heavyweight who spent 38 years in parliament and was one of five party barons who met secretly to pick a successor to then-premier Keizo Obuchi after he suffered a stroke in April 2000.
    For decades, the conservative LDP was dominated by factions whose bosses backed rival candidates in multi-member constituencies, collected and handed out campaign funds, and used their clout to launch runs at the premiership.
    That influence was weakened by reforms in the 1990s, but faction bosses still play big roles in the allocation of party and cabinet posts and in determining who wins leadership races.
THREE DINNERS
    Unusually, Suga himself is not a member of any faction, making his rise all the more notable.    However, party insiders say his path to frontrunner was aided by his alliance with party heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai, the LDP’s secretary general, cemented at three highly publicized dinners since June.
    Talk that Abe might step down early, before his term as LDP leader and hence, premier, ends in September 2021, has simmered for months due to his low voter ratings, and gathered steam after reports his chronic illness had worsened.
    Nikai, 81, has considerable clout because he effectively controls how the party allocates campaign funds, money that used to be disbursed by faction heads until the 1990s reforms.
    Nikai is “an old-school politician who does old-school politics,” said Katsuyuki Yakushiji, a professor at Toyo University.
    “For him, public opinion is irrelevant.    Nikai has teamed up with Suga to garner support for Suga and set him up as the next prime minister.”
    Nikai would benefit from a Suga premiership because Suga is most likely to let Nikai remain in his powerful post.
    Nikai could not immediately be reached for comment.
    Suga got a big boost on Tuesday when the LDP’s general affairs committee decided to hold a slimmed-down leadership poll, limiting voting to its members of parliament and three representatives from each local chapter.
    It rejected calls for a full-scale election that would include rank-and-file members, saying such a vote would take too long and leave a political vacuum, although the outgoing premier stays in his job until after the new leader is chosen.
    The committee opted for a format that favors Suga over main rival Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister more popular with the public and grassroots LDP members.
OLD-STYLE
    The old-style maneuvering annoyed many rank-and-file LDP members and younger lawmakers.
    “This should not be decided secretively,” said Ryusuke Doi, secretary general of the LDP’s chapter in Kanagawa near Tokyo.    “I think they did this to crush Ishiba.”
    Ishiba has been a rare LDP critic of Abe during his nearly eight-year rule, has long shunned factions and now heads a group with just 19 members.
    He also topped surveys of lawmakers whom voters preferred as next prime minister.
    He has said the election format was “very regrettable” and bad for both democracy and the party.
    Among Suga’s backers are the 98-member strong Hosoda faction, from which Abe hails, and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso’s group with 54 MPs.
    Abe had long been thought to favor another candidate, former foreign minister Fumio Kishida.
    But Kishida failed to enthuse ordinary voters, ranking low in public opinion polls, and Abe ultimately declined to give him public backing, effectively clearing the way for Suga.
    Once Suga gained momentum, other faction leaders jumped on the bandwagon to ensure their members had a good shot at winning cabinet and party executive posts in the new regime, and ensure continuity of the status quo, sources said.
    For all the similarities to the days of old-school LDP politics, there is one key distinction: Suga’s status as neither a member nor leader of a faction.
    “Factions are still important, but it’s not like the old days when there were powerful faction leaders who all wanted to become prime minister,” said Gerry Curtis, a professor emeritus at Columbia University.
    “Suga is the most powerful person and he’s not even in a faction.”
(Reporting by Linda Sieg and Sakura Murakami; Editing by David Dolan and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/3/2020 Japan’s Suga Pledges Focus On Coronavirus But Details Remain Sketchy by Rocky Swift
FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker, speaks during a
news conference to announce his candidacy for the party's leadership election, in Tokyo, Japan September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – As Japan’s ruling party seeks a new leader to replace outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, health experts worry that his successor may prioritize reviving the recession-hit economy over its pledge to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, seen as the front runner to succeed Abe, pledged to focus on ending the epidemic, but he’s been mum on details.
    Suga was seen as a key backer of a domestic travel campaign that critics said risked spreading the infection from major cities to the countryside.
    “Suga will most certainly prioritize the economy over infection control,” said Fumie Sakamoto, who manages infection prevention at St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo.    “I’m not expecting anything new happening under Suga’s leadership."
    Disease experts advising the government said on Wednesday that a second wave of infections appeared to peak in late July but trends in Osaka, Fukuoka, and Okinawa remain concerning.
    With almost 70,000 cases and 1,327 fatalities, Japan has weathered the pandemic better than most major economies.    Many experts attribute that success to hygiene and mask wearing among the Japanese populace rather than to government policies.
    Of some 6 million people who have taken part in the government’s Go-To Travel campaign, only 10 infections have been tied to the program, said Takaji Wakita, chairman of the government’s expert panel.    Even so, more study is needed, he added.
    Suga pledged to carry on much of the policies initiated by Abe.    He would inherit a health care system that nearly collapsed under the burden of serious COVID-19 cases in April and May, and a bureaucratic system that has kept daily tests well below capacity.
    Japan’s data collection system isn’t up to the task of tracking and analyzing infections, while a health alert system has been muddled, said Kazuki Shimizu, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
    “The government seriously needs to review previous mistakes in health communication,” Shimizu said.    “A health emergency must not be managed by the wishful thinking.”
(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Kim Coghill)

9/3/2020 Hong Kong Court Says Media Tycoon Jimmy Lai Not Guilty Of Criminal Intimidation In 2017 Case
Media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, founder of Apple Daily, arrives at West Kowloon
Magistrates' Courts, in Hong Kong, China September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Hong Kong court declared media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai not guilty of criminal intimidation on Thursday, ending one several cases against him after his high-profile arrest last month under a new national security law.
    Thursday’s verdict was for a case that dates back to 2017 and was unrelated to his arrest.    Lai, who is a key critic of Beijing, had used foul language when confronting a reporter from Oriental Daily News, a major competitor to Lai’s tabloid Apple Daily. Police however only charged him in February this year.
    The mainland-born media magnate had pleaded not guilty.
    Dressed in a light grey suit and green shirt, he smiled after the verdict was read out and shook hands with supporters who filled the courtroom.
    His case comes after he was arrested for suspected collusion with foreign forces on August 10, making him the highest profile person to be arrested under the Beijing imposed law.
    The 71-year-old had been a frequent visitor to Washington, where he met officials including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor
    After Lai’s August arrest around 200 police officers searched the office of his Apple Daily newspaper.
    The national security law punishes anything China considers subversion, succession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
    Critics say it crushes freedoms, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged anti-China, pro-democracy protests last year.
    Lai’s pro-democratic Apple Daily has vied with pro-Beijing Oriental Daily for readership in the special administrative region.    In 2014 Oriental Daily published a fake obituary of Lai, claiming that he had died of AIDS and many types of cancer.
    Prosecutors in the case said Lai had intimidated the Oriental Daily reporter.
    Lai’s lawyers said Lai had been followed by reporters for three years and his comments were not intended to harm the reporter but expressed his exasperation.
    Lai is also facing separate court cases for illegal assembly relating to anti-government protests last year.
(Reporting by Yanni Chow; writing by Farah Master; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

9/3/2020 New Youth Party Hopes To ‘Unshackle’ Malaysia From Old Politics by Rozanna Latiff
    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – One of Malaysia’s youngest lawmakers will start a youth-based party this month with the hope of changing a political landscape long dominated by “old hands” and money politics.
    Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, 27, said the yet-to-be-named party would seek equal representation for women and young people in parliament and do away with a patronage system that critics say has blunted the Southeast Asian country’s competitiveness.
    “We want to unshackle Malaysia from the type of politics based on money and power, and refresh it with young people with the right heart, mind and interests who can move Malaysia forward,” he told Reuters on Thursday.
    Syed Saddiq said he drew inspiration from French President Emmanuel Macron’s youth-oriented En Marche and Thailand’s Future Forward Party in his bid to shake up a political culture that has been run by aging stalwarts for decades.
    The average age of Malaysian lawmakers is around 55, a worrying concern for the country where the median age of its 32 million-strong population is 29.
    Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, 73, took office in March after the resignation of 95-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, who served as premier twice including a 22-year stint that ended in 2003.
    Mahathir has founded his own party to take on former ally Muhyiddin, who holds a slim majority in parliament.
    Muhyiddin also faces a challenge from an opposition alliance led by 73-year-old Anwar Ibrahim, whose on-again, off-again feud with Mahathir has shaped political conversation since the 1990s.
    “There’s a real desire for a fresh political culture to replace the current one which is outdated and has failed to engage young people,” said Qyira Yusri, a youth activist who was in early talks to join Syed Saddiq’s party this week.
    Syed Saddiq said the talks involved 33 young people of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, including academics, religious leaders and members of the technology and corporate sectors.
    He remains confident that the group’s diversity will be an asset despite differences over controversial issues such as same-sex relationships, which is outlawed in the Muslim-majority country.
    Syed Saddiq first came to national prominence after joining hands with Mahathir to oust a corruption-tainted government in 2018.    He became Malaysia’s youngest cabinet member after being appointed as the youth and sports minister in Mahathir’s administration.
    But the experience left him disillusioned with political parties’ reliance on raising money through business dealings and cronyism.
    The new party will seek to cap political donations from private entities and instead rely on new methods such as online crowdfunding, he said.
    Mahathir told a news conference on Thursday he was not confident the group would be successful.
    “I don’t think it will be very successful, because although the youth are a big portion of the electorate, it’s not enough for people to win just because they have the support of the youth.”
    Malaysia is not due to hold a general election till 2023 but there has been speculation there could be early polls.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

9/3/2020 Malaysia Expands Entry Ban To U.S., UK, France Pass Holders
    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia on Thursday added at least nine more countries, including the United States, Britain and France, to its list of long-term immigration pass holders to be barred from the country, national news wire Bernama reported.
    Malaysia’s government on Tuesday said it would from Sept. 7 bar entry of pass holders from India, Indonesia and the Philippines in a bid to curtail imported coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy.
    The ban will now include all countries that have reported more than 150,000 coronavirus cases, the report said, citing senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
    Malaysia, which has reported just 9,374 COVID-19 cases and 128 deaths as of Thursday, has banned tourists and business traveler from entering the country since March, when it imposed strict curbs on movement and commerce to contain the spread.
    The move to further tighten entry restrictions follows the discovery of new clusters sparked by infections among returnees and undocumented migrants.
    The expanded list also includes Brazil, France, Spain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Bangladesh.
    “We will add more (countries) that are considered high risk,” Ismail Sabri was quoted as saying by Bernama.
    Ismail Sabri had earlier said that the ban would include permanent residents, expatriates, students and those on spouse visas and participants of Malaysia’s My Second Home programme.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Martin Petty)

9/3/2020 Taiwan Denounces China’s ‘Vulgar Threats’ Towards Czech Speaker
Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil and Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu hold
a joint news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – China’s “vulgar threats” over a visit by the Czech Republic’s senate speaker to Taiwan are like a cold, unwelcome winter wind and contrast with the courteous words the speaker offered while in Taiwan, a senior Taiwanese politician said on Thursday.
    China, which claims Taiwan as its sovereign territory, has condemned Czech Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil for going.    The Chinese government’s top diplomat Wang Yi said this week he would pay a “heavy price” for visiting the democratic island.
    Vystrcil declared himself to be Taiwanese in a speech at Taiwan’s parliament on Tuesday, channelling the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s defiance of communism in Berlin in 1963, further angering Beijing but winning plaudits in Taipei.
    Speaking with Vystrcil by his side Taipei, Taiwan parliament Speaker You Si-kun praised his “stirring” speech at the legislature.
    Vystrcil “was gentle and elegant, a paragon of a cultured country, like spring sunshine, splendid and warn – Taiwan’s people were deeply moved,” You said.
    “Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s vulgar threats however were like a cold, unwelcome winter wind that cause discomfort.”
    Vystrcil said he had invited You to lead a delegation to Prague for what he termed a “working visit,” and dismissed China’s criticisms.
    “Of course I don’t like the statements, but I do not feel I have crossed a red line whatsoever, as I don’t think we did anything that was an infringement of the ‘one China’ policy as the Czech Republic has it within its foreign policy,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.
    “As I have always said, democratic and free countries should always cooperate.    There’s nothing to be changed on that approach.”
    The Czech Republic, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.    China demands countries it has relations with accept that Taiwan belongs to “one China.”
    Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

9/3/2020 Students Return To Class In Wuhan, But Parents And Teachers Wary Of Coronavirus Risk by David Stanway
Students wearing protective face masks walk out of a primary school, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, China September 2, 2020. Picture taken September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song
    WUHAN, China (Reuters) – Tears and excitement from students greeted teachers on the first day of school after seven months in the Chinese city of Wuhan, but parents and teachers warned that while the coronavirus has retreated, no one could afford to let down their guard.
    The central Chinese city – where the global coronavirus pandemic began – allowed more than 2,800 educational institutions to start their new term on Tuesday, opening their doors to nearly 1.4 million students for the first time since January.
    Outside the Wuluo Road elementary school, life has returned to a semblance of normality, with one reluctant new pupil screaming at her father to take her home.    People carriers clogged the roads, and the school macroeconomy of breakfast stalls and convenience stores was thriving again.
    “During the epidemic, the kids were at home for more than half a year and in all aspects couldn’t study as well as they could at school,” said Wei Fanling, who was eating breakfast with her 12-year old son.
    She said she was relieved her son could now return to class, likening it to “a monster let out of its cage,” but they would remain vigilant.
    “Though this epidemic is over, we still cannot take it easy,” she said.
    Nearby residential compounds had around 40 confirmed coronavirus cases, parents said.    Wuhan’s death toll of 3,869 accounts for more than 80% of China’s total, but it hasn’t seen a single local transmission since the middle of May.
    While Wuhan’s educational institutions are trying to put a tumultuous year behind them, they are still taking special precautions, with children subject to regular temperature tests.
    The government has advised parents to avoid public transport as much as possible.    Buses were half-empty, with students being driven to class by private car or on electric scooters.
    Wuhan University, though up and running for more than a week and preparing to accept a new cohort of students, has sealed off its campus to prevent unauthorised outsiders from entering.
    All university students will be tested before they are allowed back, and those returning from overseas will be quarantined in campus guesthouses for 14 days.
    Qiao Qiong, a 40-year old university teacher whose son studies at the Wuluo Road school, said she was pleased that months of home schooling were now over, but normality was still some distance away.
    “The virus is not a tiny thing, so I believe we still need some time,” she said.
    “Probably there will be some emergency situations but we are well-prepared for them.”
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry)

9/3/2020 Myanmar Seals Off Capital Amid Virus Surge
FILE PHOTO: A Buddhist monk walks past a closed school amid the outbreak of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Yangon August 27, 2020. REUTERS/Zaw Naing Oo
    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar has imposed mandatory quarantine and coronavirus tests for visitors to its capital city after the country reported dozens more infections on Wednesday and leader Aung San Suu Kyi warned of a “disaster for the country.”
    Anyone entering the capital, Naypyitaw, where the government is based, will be quarantined, tested, and allowed entry only if their result is negative, according to a government order published on Facebook.
    People coming from the country’s worst-hit areas will be quarantined in a facility for at least seven days, said the order by the Naypyitaw Council, while others will be allowed to leave earlier if they test negative.
    Myanmar reported its first local transmission in a month in mid-August in the restive western Rakhine state.    Since then, the number of cases has roughly doubled to 1,059 infections and six deaths, according to government data.
    The majority of the cases and deaths have been in Rakhine, where government troops are fighting ethnic insurgents and authorities have imposed sweeping curbs on internet access.
    Most recent infections have been in that state’s capital, Sittwe, where officials have imposed a stay-at-home order and a curfew.
    Sittwe is also home to camps where about 100,000 Rohingya Muslims have been confined since an outbreak of violence in 2012.    Rohingya are mostly denied citizenship and face strict curbs on freedom of movement and access to healthcare.
    But infections have been found across the country including in the biggest city, Yangon.    Authorities imposed a partial lockdown in parts of Yangon on Tuesday, ordering residents of the worst-hit townships to stay at home other than for essential journeys.    Bars and nightclubs have been closed.
    Suu Kyi said those who disobeyed instructions would face punishment under the Natural Disaster Law, which carries prison terms of up to a year.
    “More strict action will be taken under the Natural Disaster Law.    This is a disaster for the country,” she said in a video broadcast on Wednesday.
    “If the pandemic spreads widely in Yangon, it will be very difficult to provide medical treatment to the people,” she said.
    Doctors say they fear a major outbreak in the country, which has a health system ranked among the world’s worst after decades of neglect under military rule. Many services are run by volunteers and aid groups.
(Reporting by Thu Thu. Writing by Poppy McPherson.)

9/3/2020 Live From Pyongyang: North Korea State Media Tests New Formats On Air And Online by Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO - A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of
North Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Picture
    SEOUL (Reuters) – As two typhoons hammered North Korea within a week of each other, state media broadcasts looked unusually reminiscent of international TV coverage, with correspondents standing knee-deep in floodwaters to provide rare, nearly real-time reports.
    Thursday’s broadcasts were the latest example of a national propaganda machine that is slowly evolving in the face of more competition from international media that seep into the isolated country, analysts said.
    In unprecedented overnight broadcasts, correspondents and anchors were shown at locations around the country, shouting the latest developments while being lashed with wind and rain.
    The format offered seemingly unscripted moments rarely seen on the state-controlled Korean Central Television, including one rain-drenched reporter brushing off attempts by a man trying to hand him an umbrella in the middle of a report.
    “It’s surprisingly fast and honest public service reporting from KCTV unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Martyn Williams, a researcher at 38 North, a U.S.-based think-tank that monitors North Korea.
    The coverage is almost certainly part of a top-down response to leader Kim Jong Un’s recent call last week for more efforts to prevent damage from the typhoons, Williams added.
    “The layers of censorship and approval needed are too complex to do this without pretty high-up approval,” he said.
EVOLVING MEDIA
    The coverage reflects Kim’s policy of greater transparency and resolving issues head-on, rather than trying to hide them, said Rachel     Minyoung Lee, a former North Korea open source intelligence analyst in the U.S. government.
    “Damage from natural disasters has always been a highly sensitive topic for North Korean state media, and showing near-real-time news reports from flood sites on state TV was unthinkable,” she said.
    Since the early days of Kim’s rule, North Korean TV has experimented with various stylistic and formatting changes, ranging from bringing in a younger generation of TV news anchors, to showing more graphics during newscasts, to emulating South Korean entertainment shows, Lee said.
    “Kim Jong Un seems to have realized early on that KCTV needed to keep up with the times to compete with the influx of South Korean and foreign media and entertainment content, and that explains KCTV modernization efforts,” she said.
A MESSAGE FOR THE WORLD
    In recent years, North Korea has dabbled in online media aimed at a more global audience as well.
    Among them are a Twitter account with the handle @ColdNoodleFan – a nod to one of North Korea’s most famous dishes – which described itself as “Anti-war, peace advocate and unbiased news” on North Korea.
    According to Colin Zwirko, a reporter at Seoul-based NK News, which specializes in North Korea, the account appears to be linked to the North Korean state-run Sogwang media group, sometimes even publishing content before it appears on official outlets.
    @ColdNoodleFan – which was recently suspended by Twitter for unspecified reasons and currently displays a message by the platform warning that the account has shown “some unusual activity” – has nearly 9,000 followers, while following zero other accounts.
    An English-language YouTube channel called “Echo of Truth” has gained nearly 29,000 subscribers and more than 1.5 million views with videos of “daily life” in North Korea.
    Among the channel’s most popular videos are clips about a pizza restaurant in Pyongyang and smiling people at an amusement park, as well as videos about the coronavirus situation and recent floods.
    A series of videos, including some under the title “What’s Up, Pyongyang?,” feature an English-speaking young woman identified as “Un A” touring various spot in the city.
    In recent months, “Echo of Truth” has quietly been removing old-style videos of North Korea’s former leaders, focusing instead on the newer videos that gather many more viewers, Williams found.
    And North Korea’s Chinese-language efforts appear to be even more successful, with 533,000 followers on Weibo, according to Williams.
    “The goals of these initiatives seem to be to saturate social media with some positive messages on North Korea, or at least make people sceptical about what they read about North Korea elsewhere,” Zwirko said.
(This story corrects name of YouTube channel to “Echo of Truth” from “Echo of Hope” in paragraphs 18, 21)
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Kim Coghill)

9/4/2020 U.N. Experts Decry Hong Kong Security Law In Letter To China by Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: The Chinese and Hong Kong flags flutter at the office of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, ahead of a
news conference held by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, in Beijing, China June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. human rights experts have told China a new security law for Hong Kong “infringes on certain fundamental rights” and voiced concerns that it could be used to prosecute political activists in the former British colony.
    In a rare joint letter made public on Friday, 48 hours after it was sent to the Chinese government, they also said provisions of the new law appear to undermine the independence of Hong Kong’s judges and lawyers, and the right to freedom of expression.
    The “open letter” reflected a detailed legal analysis of the national security law imposed in Hong Kong on June 30, which had already drawn U.N. criticism before its adoption.
    The law allows for anything China views as subversive, secessionist, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces to be punished with up to life in prison.    Authorities in Beijing and the financial centre have said the law is necessary to ensure Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.
    Critics say the legislation further erodes the wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong on its return to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement.
    The 14-page letter, posted on the website of the U.N. human rights office, was sent by Fionnuala Ni Aolain, U.N. special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism, and six other U.N. experts.
    The independent experts said the law’s measures do not conform to China’s legal obligations under international law and voiced concern that the legislation “lacks precision in key respects, (and) infringes on certain fundamental rights.”
    The law “should not be used to restrict or limit protected fundamental freedoms, including the rights to opinion, expression, and of peaceful assembly,” they said.
    The group also expressed concern that “many legitimate activities” of human rights defenders in Hong Kong would be redefined as illegal.
    The experts urged China to explain how it plans to enforce “extra-territorial jurisdiction” contained in the new law so as to ensure it complies with a landmark international treaty on civil and political rights, signed by Beijing.
    Protests in Hong Kong last year were fuelled by perceptions that Communist Party-ruled Beijing was tightening its grip on freedoms, which authorities have denied.
    They began with peaceful marches against a since-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but clashes between police and protesters became more violent over following months.
    China should appoint a “fully independent reviewer” to examine the law’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, the experts said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Gerry Doyle)

9/4/2020 Japan’s Suga Jumps In Popularity, Tops Favourability Poll For Next PM
FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker, speaks during a
news conference to announce his candidacy for the party's leadership election, in Tokyo, Japan September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is now the most preferred candidate among the public to become the next prime minister, surging in popularity after he entered his party’s leadership race, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed on Friday.
    The survey highlights the growing momentum for Suga, the government’s chief spokesman, who emerged as the front-runner to replace Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week after securing the backing of several of his party’s key factions.
    Suga has 38% of the public’s support, ahead of 25% for former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba who had previously led several media opinion polls.    Fumio Kishida, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s policy chief, came in last with 5%.
    In a June Asahi survey, Ishiba led a pack of seven potential contenders with 31% while Suga had just 3%.
    A longtime aide to Abe, who is resigning due to poor health, Suga said on Wednesday he had decided to run for party leader to avoid a political vacuum during the coronavirus pandemic.
    The leadership election is set for Sept. 14 with LDP lawmakers and regional party representatives casting votes.    The winner is virtually assured of becoming prime minister because of the LDP’s parliamentary majority.
    Suga is arguably the government’s most recognizable face after Abe, having served as chief spokesman for more than seven years and conducting twice daily press briefings.
    He is known as “Uncle Reiwa” for unveiling the name of Japan’s new imperial era last year.
    The Asahi also polled respondents on the qualities needed to make a good prime minister, with “leadership” coming in first at 37%.
    Among those who chose leadership, 43% supported Suga, versus 20% for Ishiba, suggesting his popularity has been bolstered by his high visibility in his role as chief cabinet secretary.
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; editing by Richard Pullin)

9/4/2020 Nepal Police Fire Tear Gas To Stop Religious Rally Amid COVID-19 Surge by Gopal Sharma
Nepalese police personnel take cover during a protest after locals tried to pull the chariot of
Rato Machhindranath amid the ban on public and religious gatherings to control the spread of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Lalitpur, Nepal September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
    KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Police in Nepal used tear gas and water cannon on Thursday to break up a religious rally that defied a government ban on public gatherings imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
    Despite the ban, about 2,000 residents poured into a major thoroughfare of Lalitpur, near Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, to pull a chariot of the rain god, Rato Machhindranath, a ritual that has been celebrated for countless generations.
    Authorities imposed temporary curbs in Kathmandu and surrounding areas in August to help contain coronavirus contagion and asked residents to observe festivals at home.
    “We charged (with) water cannon and tear gas to stop the rally,” police official Tek Prasad Rai told Reuters.
    On Thursday, Nepali Health Ministry spokesman Jageshwor Gautam said the number of coronavirus infections in the Himalayan nation had increased to 42,877, with 257 deaths.
    Temple-studded Kathmandu Valley recorded 445 new cases, a jump of about 7% from the previous day.
    Witnesses said the protesters, wearing protective face masks against the virus, threw rocks at baton-wielding police and set a police motorcycle on fire.    An injured person was carried away by police, they said.
    Narayan Prasad Bhatta, the top civil servant of Lalitpur district, said the rally like all other religious and social gatherings had been banned to stem the spread of the pandemic.
    But participants said they must be allowed to carry on with the rain god tradition that had been celebrated for centuries.
    Some participants carried placards reading: “We oppose efforts by the administration to interfere in our culture and festivals.”
(This story corrects spelling of “against” in para 7.)
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj and Mark Heinrich)

9/4/2020 Trump Security Adviser Says China Has Biggest Election-Interference Program by Jeff Mason and Daphne Psaledakis
FILE PHOTO: U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien speaks upon arriving at Abu Dhabi
International Airport, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates August 31, 2020. WAM/Handout via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China has taken the most active role among countries seeking to interfere in the U.S. election and has the biggest program to influence domestic politics, U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Friday, without providing any details.
    “We know the Chinese have taken the most active role,” O’Brien told reporters at a briefing.
    He said China had “had the most massive program to influence the United States politically,” followed by Iran and then Russia.
    U.S. intelligence found that Russia orchestrated a cyber campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election in Republican Donald Trump’s favor and there have been reports hackers may try to influence the election on Nov. 3. Moscow has denied interfering in 2016.
    “We’ve made it very clear to the Chinese, to the Russians, to the Iranians and others that haven’t been publicly disclosed that anyone … that attempts to interfere with the American elections will face extraordinary consequences,” O’Brien said.
    Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr said on Wednesday he believed China was more of a threat than Russia when it came to election interference, also without offering details.
    In August, O’Brien said the United States had seen Chinese hackers targeting U.S. election infrastructure.
    China has consistently denied U.S. government charges that it hacks U.S. companies, politicians or government agencies.
    Asked to comment on O’Brien’s latest remarks, its embassy referred to a Foreign Ministry statement last month that China has no interest in interfering in the U.S. election.
    Trump, who long touted his friendly ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping as he sought to make good on trade deal promises, has made getting tough on China a key part of his campaign for re-election in November and blames China over the coronavirus pandemic.
    In a speech to the Republican National Convention last month, Trump said that Beijing supports his Democratic opponent Joe Biden and “desperately” wants him to win the election.
    Asked to provide specific details of Chinese election interference, O’Brien said:
    “I am not going to go into all the intelligence, but the massive activities of the Chinese and cyber realm, it’s really an extraordinary thing that we’re facing.”
    He called the scope of Chinese activity “relentless.”
    “We’ve never seen anything like it.    It was nothing like this in the Cold War with the Soviets.”
    Earlier this week, Reuters reported that hackers had stepped up efforts to knock Trump campaign and business websites offline ahead of the U.S. election, in what a security firm working for the campaign said could be preparation for a larger digital assault.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Tim Ahmann and Daphne Psaledakis; Writing by Chris Sanders and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Dan Grebler and Sonya Hepinstall)

9/4/2020 Thousands Protest In Pakistan Over Reprinting Of Mohammad Cartoons In France
Supporters of the religious and political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) wave as they chant
slogans against the satirical French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which reprinted a cartoon of the
Prophet Mohammad, during a protest in Karachi, Pakistan September 4, 2020. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
    KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people protested across Pakistan on Friday against French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s reprinting of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad, chanting “Death to France” and calling for boycotts of French products.
    “Decapitation is the punishment of blasphemers,” read one of the placards carried by protesters.
    The cartoons sending up the Prophet Mohammad triggered outrage and unrest among Muslims around the world in 2005 when they first published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
    Earlier this week, Charlie Hebdo – a satirical weekly – revived the cartoons to mark the start of the trial of suspected accomplices in an Islamist militant attack on its Paris office in January 2015.
    The Islamist gunmen who stormed into Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, sought to avenge the Prophet Mohammad, a French court heard on Wednesday on the first day of the trial.    Publication of the cartoons was cited as the reason for the attack.
    Friday’s protests were organized by the hardline Islamist Tehreek-e-Laibak Pakistan (TLP) party with rallies held in Karachi, the country’s largest city, as well as in Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore and Dera Ismail Khan.
    Protesters paralysed traffic in Karachi, Pakistan’s financial and business capital.
    “It (re-printing of cartoons) amounts to big terrorism; they repeat such acts of blasphemy against Prophet Mohammad every few years.    It should be stopped,” said Razi Hussani, TLP district leader in Karachi.
    Similar rallies held in Pakistan in 2015 turned violent, with scores injured as police clashed with protesters trying to make their way to the French consulate in Karachi.
    Pakistan’s government also condemned the reprinting of the cartoons.    Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the South Asian country believed in freedom of expression but such liberty does not mean a license to offend religious sentiment.
    Charlie Hebdo has long tested the limits of what society will accept in the name of free speech.
    “We will never lie down.    We will never give up,” Charlie Hebdo editor Riss Sourisseau wrote in explaining the decision to re-publish the cartoons.
(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in Karachi, Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/4/2020 IAEA Inspects One Of Two Sites In Iran After Long Stand-Off
FILE PHOTO: A flag with the logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flutters in front
of their headquarters in Vienna, Austria July 10, 2019. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo
    VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has let the U.N. nuclear watchdog inspect one of the two sites it agreed last week to grant access to after a protracted standoff, while Tehran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has risen further, quarterly reports by the agency said on Friday.
    The International Atomic Energy Agency inspected one of the sites and took environmental samples there, one of the two reports obtained by Reuters said, referring to samples aimed at detecting traces of nuclear material that may have been present.
    The agency’s inspectors will visit the other site “later in September 2020 on a date already agreed with Iran, to take environmental samples,” the report said.
    The other report said that Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) rose by 534 kg in the most recent quarter, roughly the same amount as in the previous three months, to 2,105.4 kg.
    That is more than 10 times the 202.8 kg limit set by Iran’s 2015 nuclear accord with big powers, which Iran has been breaching in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and reimposition of sanctions against Tehran.
    The stockpile, however, remains far below the many tonnes of enriched uranium Iran had accumulated before the 2015 deal.
    Tehran is enriching up to a fissile purity of 4.5%, which while above the deal’s 3.67% limit is still far short of the 20% level it achieved before the deal. Roughly 90% purity is considered weapons-grade, suitable for an atomic bomb.
    Iran agreed on Aug. 26, during the first visit to Tehran by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, to allow access for U.N. inspectors to two sites suspected of once hosting covert uranium conversion and nuclear testing activities.
    While the IAEA says it has the right to examine such sites without permission, Iran objected because at least some of the information about them came from a trove of documents on its past activities that Tehran’s main Middle East adversary, Israel, says it seized inside Iran.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/5/2020 IAEA: Iran continues to expand stockpile of enriched uranium
    VIENNA – Iran continues to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium in violation of limitations set in a landmark deal with world powers, but has begun providing access to sites where it was suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material and possibly conducted nuclear-related activities.    The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries Friday that Iran as of Aug. 25 had stockpiled 2.32 tons of low-enriched uranium, up from 1.73 tons last reported on May 20.

[THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS VERY FUNNY AS IRAN THINKS IT HAS FRIENDS AND IF THEY DO IT IS NOT SOMEONE OF INTEREST]
9/5/2020 Iran’s Friends Should Have Defied U.S. Sanctions During Pandemic: President Rouhani
    (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani bemoaned Iran’s friends on Saturday for not standing up to the United States and breaking crippling sanctions during the coronavirus pandemic.
    He also said that if the United States had a “bit of humanity or brain,” it would have lifted sanctions on Iran for the duration of the health crisis.
    Iran, with over 380,000 registered cases and over 22,000 deaths from the coronavirus, is one of the countries worst-hit by the pandemic in the Middle East.
    “Over the past months since the coronavirus arrived in our country… no one came to our help,” Rouhani said in remarks broadcast live on Iranian state television.
    If the United States “had a bit of humanity and brain,” he said, it would have offered to “lift the sanctions for a year because of the coronavirus.”
    But the United States “is far more heartless and evil than those things,” he added.
    Instead, it “imposed new sanctions and pressures on us over these past seven months of coronavirus,” Rouhani said.
    At the same time, he said, “not a single friendly country told us that in this time of coronavirus and hardship and for the sake of humanity ‘we will stand up to America'” and do business with Iran despite threats of U.S. retaliation.
    The United States has threatened to impose sanctions on whoever conducts business with Iran.
    The sanctions are part of the U.S. effort to slash Iranian revenues after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
(Editing by Toby Chopra)

9/5/2020 India And China Agree To Ease Tension On Border
FILE PHOTO: Indian army trucks move along a highway leading to Ladakh, at Gagangeer inbr> Kashmir's Ganderbal district September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Ismail
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India and China said on Saturday they had agreed to work towards reducing tensions along their contested border, following a meeting of the defense ministers of the nuclear-armed Asian giants.
    Both sides deployed additional forces along the frontier running through the western Himalayas after a clash in June, during which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand fighting.    China has not released casualty figures for its troops.
    In the highest level face-to-face political contact between India and China since tensions first flared along the border in May, defense ministers Rajnath Singh of India and General Wei Fenghe of China met late on Friday on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Moscow.
    Both countries agreed that “neither side should take any further action that could either complicate the situation or escalate matters in the border areas,” India’s defense ministry said in a statement.
    Wei said the two sides should promote peace and stability and work to cool current tensions, China’s Ministry of Defence said in a news report about the meeting posted on its website.
    He said, however, that blame for the recent tensions lay “entirely with India,” adding that China was determined to safeguard its national sovereignty and territory.
    China called on India to strengthen control of its frontline forces, refrain from provocative actions and “refrain from deliberately hyping and disseminating negative information.”
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Dominique Patton; Editing by Tom Hogue and William Mallard)

9/5/2020 Gas Pipeline Blast Kills 13 Worshippers In Bangladesh Mosque
    DHAKA (Reuters) – A gas pipeline explosion near a mosque in Bangladesh killed 13 people and injured 30 as worshippers were about to end their prayers, officials said on Saturday.
    The explosion, which fire service officials suspect was caused by leakage from the pipeline, occurred on Friday night at a mosque in Narayanganj district, just outside the capital Dhaka.
Dozens were rushed to Dhaka’s state-run specialized burn and plastic-surgery hospital, most of them with severe burns.
    Thirteen people, including a child, died after they sustained burn injuries, said Samanta Lal Sen, coordinator of the burn unit.    The death toll could rise further as many of them were in critical conditions, he said.
Fire officials said gas that accumulated in the mosque after pipeline leaks likely triggered the blasts.
    “We primarily suspect that gas leaked from the pipeline and accumulated inside the mosque since the windows were shut.    When the air conditioners was turned on, due to sparks the gas could have exploded,” said Abdullah Al Arefin, a senior fire service official.
    All six air conditioners in the mosque exploded during the incident, he said.
    Authorities have launched an investigation into the incident.
(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by William Mallard)

9/5/2020 Lockdown Protesters Defy Police As Australia Coronavirus Cases Ease by Sonali Paul
FILE PHOTO: People wear face masks inside the Queen Victoria Market as the city operates under lockdown in response to an
outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Melbourne, Australia, September 3, 2020. AAP Image/Erik Anderson via REUTERS
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Protesters against a COVID-19 lockdown defied police in Australia’s hotspot on Saturday, prompting 15 arrests, even as the state of Victoria continued its gradual improvement in stemming new cases due to the nearly five weeks of restrictions.
    Around 200 protesters in the state capital Melbourne rallied with chants of “freedom” and “human rights matter,” surrounded by swarms of police.
    One of the arrests was for assaulting police, while others were arrested or fined for breaching health restrictions, Victoria police said in a statement.
    “It is not safe, it is not smart, it is not lawful.    In fact, it is absolutely selfish for people to be out there protesting,” state Premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference.
    Victoria reported 76 new COVID-19 infections and 11 deaths on Saturday.    Andrews is due to outline plans on Sunday for easing Melbourne’s stage 4 restrictions, which shut large parts of the economy, required everyone to stay home except for essential business and imposed a nighttime curfew.
    There were two rallies in Sydney and one in Byron Bay in the state of New South Wales, which also breached local restrictions against large gatherings.
    Outside Victoria, Australia reported five new coronavirus infections in New South Wales, one in Queensland and one in South Australia.
    Over the past two months, infections in the country have more than tripled to 26,207, with Victoria making up around 75% of the total.    Australia’s deaths from COVID-19 have surged over that period to 748 from 104, with Victoria making up 90%.br>     “These stark figures show us the serious impact of the second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria,” Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, Michael Kidd, told reporters.
    Victoria’s new cases were below 100 most days this week, down from a peak of 725 new infections on Aug. 5, but remain higher than health officials had hoped five weeks into a six-week hard lockdown.
    “The tail of the second wave is a stubborn thing,” Andrews said.
    Australia’s government and businesses have urged Victoria, which makes up about a quarter of the nation’s economy, to lift the restrictions as the country has sunk into its first recession since 1991.
    Andrews said he would take a “steady and safe” approach out of the lockdown.
    “This is a health problem in the first instance and until you fix the health problem, there can be no economic repair,” he said.
    In neighbouring New Zealand, a former prime minister of the Cook Islands, Joseph Williams, died of COVID-19.    His was the second coronavirus-related death in the country in two days, following an outbreak in the country’s largest city, Auckland, taking the country’s total to 24 deaths.

9/5/2020 Iran’s Friends Should Have Defied U.S. Sanctions During Pandemic – President Rouhani
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a news conference on the sidelines of the
United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani castigated Iran’s friends on Saturday for not standing up to the United States and ignoring U.S. sanctions during the coronavirus pandemic.
    Iran, with over 380,000 registered cases and over 22,000 deaths from coronavirus, is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East.
    “Over the past months since the coronavirus arrived in our country… no one came to our help,” Rouhani said in remarks broadcast live on state television.
    If the United States “had a bit of humanity and brain,” he said, it would have offered to “lift the sanctions for a year because of the coronavirus.”
    But the United States “is far more heartless and evil than those things,” he added.    Instead, it “imposed new sanctions and pressures on us over these past seven months of coronavirus.”
    At the same time, “Not a single friendly country told us that in this time of coronavirus and hardship and for the sake of humanity ‘we will stand up to America'” and do business with Iran despite threats of U.S. retaliation, Rouhani said.
    In March, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected a U.S. offer to help Iran in its fight against the pandemic, and denounced U.S. leaders as “charlatans and liars.”
    The sanctions are part of a U.S. effort to slash Iranian revenues after President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
    Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from the sanctions but the trading bans have deterred several foreign banks from doing business with Iran, including financing humanitarian deals, provoking shortages of some drugs.
(Editing by Toby Chopra and James Drummond)

9/5/2020 India And China Agree To Ease Tension On Border
FILE PHOTO: Indian army trucks move along a highway leading to Ladakh, at Gagangeer
in Kashmir's Ganderbal district September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Ismail
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India and China said on Saturday they had agreed to work towards reducing tensions along their contested border, following a meeting of the defense ministers of the nuclear-armed Asian giants.
    Both sides deployed additional forces along the frontier running through the western Himalayas after a clash in June, during which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand fighting.    China has not released casualty figures for its troops.
    In the highest level face-to-face political contact between India and China since tensions first flared along the border in May, defense ministers Rajnath Singh of India and General Wei Fenghe of China met late on Friday on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Moscow.
    Both countries agreed that “neither side should take any further action that could either complicate the situation or escalate matters in the border areas,” India’s defense ministry said in a statement.
    Wei said the two sides should promote peace and stability and work to cool current tensions, China’s Ministry of Defence said in a news report about the meeting posted on its website.
    He said, however, that blame for the recent tensions lay “entirely with India,” adding that China was determined to safeguard its national sovereignty and territory.
    China called on India to strengthen control of its frontline forces, refrain from provocative actions and “refrain from deliberately hyping and disseminating negative information.”
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Dominique Patton; Editing by Tom Hogue and William Mallard)

9/6/2020 Nothing To See: COVID Origins Off-Limits As China’s Wuhan Touts Recovery by David Stanway
FILE PHOTO: A blocked entrance to Huanan seafood market, where the coronavirus that can cause COVID-19 is believed to have
first surfaced, is seen in Wuhan, Hubei province, China March 30, 2020. Picture taken March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song
    WUHAN, China (Reuters) – The Huanan seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, believed by many to be the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, is sealed behind a blue perimeter fence.    A large team of security staff chases away anyone who lingers.
    “We are just doing our job,” said a guard in black who ordered a Reuters reporter to delete footage recorded near the market’s main gates.    He identified himself as a worker from the city government’s epidemic prevention and control team.
    Foreign journalists were invited on an official tour to report on Wuhan’s efforts to rebuild its economy after the months-long trauma of COVID-19. The official message: the “heroic city” is back to normal and back in business, its schools and tourist sites reopened and its enterprises running at full capacity.
    “No other place is as safe as this,” said Lin Songtian, president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, a state-backed group that helped organise the tour.
    The location of more than 80% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths, the central Chinese city on the banks of the Yangtze river has reported no cases of local transmission since April, and most of the stringent controls imposed during a two-month lockdown have been relaxed.
    But Wuhan was accused of acting too slowly in the early stages of the outbreak amid fears of disrupting the economy or displeasing China’s leadership in Beijing.    Critics say media censorship and the silencing of whistleblowers gave the virus more time to spread undetected.
    Wuhan remains reluctant to allow light to be shed on the origins of a pathogen that has killed nearly 900,000 people worldwide.
    The city still restricts access to locations like the Huanan market, which was linked to the first identified cluster of infections in December.
    At another wholesale market in the far north of city, which is open to the public, Reuters was tailed by security staff and deterred from speaking to stallholders and traders.
    “If you don’t allow people to visit these places, you give people the impression you have something to hide,” said Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington who studies the politics behind China’s health issues.
ORIGINS
    China rejects conspiracy theories surrounding the coronavirus, including claims without evidence that a specialist virology institute in Wuhan manufactured it.    But many unanswered questions remain about the origins of COVID-19 and the role played by the trade in exotic wildlife in Wuhan.
    Though authorities closed the Huanan market in January, there is a growing scientific consensus that the virus did not originate there.    Some studies suggest it was already in circulation by the time it reached the market, with more than one transmission route.
    “I agree with the general idea that the virus jumped into a human before the Wuhan market,” said David Irwin, professor of medicine and pathobiology at the University of Toronto.    “They may have been a trader that had been exposed either directly to the virus in a host animal or interacted with farmers or other traders outside of Wuhan.”
    China has shown little appetite for an international enquiry into the origins of COVID-19 or for allowing more scrutiny of its efforts in the early stages of the outbreak, preferring to focus on the country’s rapid economic and psychological recovery.
    “There is no doubt that China has been very successful in containing the virus, so why can’t they be more open?” said Huang.    “If you want to dispel those myths… you don’t need to worry about people visiting the market or even the virus institute.”
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by William Mallard)

9/6/2020 Exclusive: 90% Of China’s Sinovac Employees, Families Took Coronavirus Vaccine, Says CEO by Roxanne Liu and Tony Munroe
A signage of Sinovac Biotech Ltd is seen at the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services
(CIFTIS), following the COVID-19 outbreak, in Beijing, China September 5, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
    BEIJING (Reuters) – About 90% of Sinovac Biotech Ltd employees and their families have taken an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by the Chinese firm under the country’s emergency use program, its chief executive said on Sunday.
    The extent of inoculations under the emergency program, which China launched in July but has released few details about, points to how actively it is using experimental vaccines in the hopes of protecting essential workers against a potential COVID-19 resurgence, even as trials are still underway.
    The program is intended for specific groups, including medical staffers and those who work at food markets and in the transportation and service sectors.
    Sinovac, whose CoronaVac is in Phase 3 clinical trials and has been included in the emergency scheme, offered the candidate vaccine to approximately 2,000 to 3,000 employees and their families on a voluntary basis, CEO Yin Weidong told Reuters.
    “As a vaccine developer and manufacturer, a new outbreak could directly impact our vaccine production,” Yin said on the sidelines of an international trade fair in Beijing, explaining why his company was included in the emergency program.
    Data gathered from the program could offer evidence of the vaccine’s safety, but such data, which is not part of the registered clinical trial protocols, will not be used as main materials that regulators review in judging whether to approve the vaccine for commercial use, Yin said.
    He said those who chose to be inoculated, including his wife and parents, had been informed of the potential side effects prior to taking the shot, and that its vaccine completing only early and mid-stage trials.
    Yin, who also took the shot, said doctors asked about their health conditions before the vaccination, and the occurrence rate of adverse reaction among those vaccinated has been “very low.”
    Side effects after taking CoronaVac include fatigue, fever and pain, with mostly mild symptoms, according to results of a mid-stage trial sponsored by Sinovac, involving 600 participants and published last month ahead of peer review.    https://bit.ly/2GwIz9b
    No vaccine has passed final, large-scale trials to prove it is effective and safe enough to protect people against the virus that has led to over 870,000 deaths globally.
(This story corrects typo in 9th paragraph.)
(Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Tony Munroe; Editing by Miyoung Kim and William Mallard)

9/6/2020 Philippines Reports 2,839 New Coronavirus Infections, 85 More Deaths
FILE PHOTO: Two men take shade while queueing for cash subsidy from the government amid the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, August 27, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines health ministry on Sunday reported 2,839 new coronavirus cases and 85 more deaths, bringing the country’s total tally of infections to 237,365 and fatalities to 3,875.
    The Department of Health also said 23,074 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, bringing total recoveries to 184,687.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

9/6/2020 Hong Kong Police Fire Pepper Balls At Protesters Opposed To Election Delay, New Law by Jessie Pang
Riot police chase pro-democracy protesters during a demonstration oppose postponed elections, in Hong Kong, China September 6, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Police fired rounds of pepper balls at protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday and arrested almost 300 after demonstrators took to the streets to oppose the postponement of legislative elections and a new national security law imposed by China.
    Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam postponed the Sept. 6 election for seats in the Asian financial hub’s Legislative Council for a year in July because of a spike in coronavirus cases.
    The move dealt a blow to the pro-democracy opposition which hoped to win a historic majority in the Council, where only half the seats are directly elected and the other half are appointed members who mostly support Beijing.
    “Today is supposedly our voting day, we need to resist to fight back for our vote,” said a 70-year old woman surnamed Wong as she marched with other demonstrators.
    The poll would have been the former British colony’s first official vote since Beijing imposed new security legislation in late June.    The government insists there was no political motive behind the delay.
    Thousands of police were stationed around the bustling Kowloon peninsula as hundreds of marchers waved placards and chanted popular anti-government slogans such as “liberate Hong Kong.”    These slogans are now banned under the new security law. Police said they arrested 298 people, mainly for illegal gatherings, in a notice on their Facebook page.
    Several well-known activists were arrested during the demonstration including Figo Chan, the vice-convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front and former legislator Leung Kwok-hung, also known as “Long Hair”, according to a post on Chan’s Facebook page.
    Anti-government demonstrations have declined this year mainly because of limits on group gatherings, imposed to counter the spread of coronavirus, and the security law, which punishes actions China sees as subversive, secessionist, terrorist or colluding with foreign forces.
    Critics say the law aims to quash dissent in the city, while supporters say it will bring more stability after a year of often-violent anti-government and anti-China unrest.
    Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a guarantee of autonomy but critics say the new law undermines that promise and puts the territory on a more authoritarian path.
    Advocates of the law say it plugs loopholes in national security left by the city’s inability to fulfil a constitutional requirement to pass such laws on its own.
    While street protests have largely lost momentum, anti-government and anti-Beijing sentiment persists, with China’s offer of mass coronavirus testing for Hong Kong residents prompting calls for a boycott amid public distrust.
(Additional reporting by Joyce Zhou; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Mark Potter)

9/7/2020 Japan PM Contender Suga Suggests Overhaul Of Health Ministry
FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker, speaks during a news conference to
announce his candidacy for the party's leadership election, in Tokyo, Japan September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government needs to reform its health ministry after the coronavirus pandemic settles down, Chief Cabinet Secretary and prime minister hopeful Yoshihide Suga said in a newspaper interview published on Monday.
    Suga, who is widely seen as the top contender to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told the Yomiuri newspaper the “the coronavirus pandemic is a huge problem that could not be handled by the health ministry alone.”
    The sprawling Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which accounts for the largest budget of all the ministries, is responsible for the country’s coronavirus pandemic measures.
    Suga also told the Yomiuri it was essential to streamline the government’s digital strategies, managed separately by each respective ministry.
    The remarks indicate the longtime Abe aide is eager to go his own way and push for structural changes within the government, even as he pledges to carry on with the outgoing premier’s “Abenomics” economic initiatives.
    “As working from home has become more common in the times of the coronavirus pandemic, I think it’s evident that the government and private sector need to digitise,” he told a news briefing on Monday.
    The remarks echo ideas floated by Heizo Takenaka, a former economy minister with close ties to Suga, who has said the government should focus on its recent goal of promoting digitalisation in Japan.
    “I really hope Suga would push forward digitisation and environmental sustainability, which together would eventually lead to regional revitalisation,” Takenaka told Reuters.
    “It would be good to see something like a digital agency being set up, even if it’s only temporarily,” he added.
    Suga is widely expected to win the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) leadership election on Sept. 14, a date set after Abe’s decision to step down.    The winner is virtually assured of becoming premier because of the LDP’s parliamentary majority.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Gerry Doyle)

9/7/2020 India’s Coronavirus Infections Overtake Brazil As Some Rail Services Resume by Shilpa Jamkhandikar
Commuters wearing face masks walk at a Delhi metro train station, on the first day of the restart of their operations,
amidst the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India, September 7, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – India displaced Brazil on Monday to take second place after the United States in terms of coronavirus infections, with 90,082 new cases whose numbers are expected to grow, while some cities re-opened underground train services shuttered for months.
    With its nationwide tally of 4.2 million exceeded only by the U.S. figure of 6.2 million, India is adding more cases each day than any other country this year since the outbreak of the pandemic.
    Experts say there is no sign of a peak as cases surge in the world’s second most populous country, both in major cities, such as New Delhi and the financial hub of Mumbai, and rural areas that have limited access to health services.
    “It’s becoming a double burden now,” Rajib Dasgupta, a professor of community health at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in the capital, told Reuters.
    “The urban areas are not slowing down and rural areas are picking up.”
    Monday’s jump was the third straight daily record in India, government data showed, provisionally carrying its tally past Brazil, which has just over 4.1 million cases, although the time difference means the South American nation will release its corresponding figure later.
    The death toll of 71,642 in India compares with nearly 193,000 in the United States and 126,000 in Brazil.
    India says its rising infections also reflect higher rates of testing nationwide, adding that high recovery rates show its strategy of testing, tracing and treatment is working and the situation is under control in a country of its size.
    Commuters were sparse as New Delhi resumed metro rail services after a break of more than five months, with stations nearly deserted.    Bars will open from Wednesday in the capital.
    Partial metro train services also opened in the western city of Ahmedabad, the northern city of Lucknow and several other places, after nearly six months of suspension over the pandemic.
    Pressure is growing for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pull the economy out of a deep freeze after a severe lockdown in March shuttered businesses, leaving millions without jobs, bringing a 24% contraction in June-quarter GDP.
(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

9/7/2020 Afghan Negotiators Wait In Kabul As Start Of Peace Talks Faces Delays: Sources by Hamid Shalizi
FILE PHOTO: Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard at a check point near the Bagram
Airbase north of Kabul, Afghanistan April 2, 2020. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo
    KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan negotiators have pushed back a planned trip to Doha for long-awaited peace talks with the Taliban as logistical issues are still being worked on in the Qatari capital, delaying the start of the talks, a government and a diplomatic source said on Monday.
    After months of delays largely due to a disagreement over prisoner demands by the insurgent Taliban, a government decision to set most prisoners free last week led the major players involved to expect talks would finally begin.
    Negotiators had initially expected to fly to Doha late last week in anticipation of talks starting as soon as Monday.
    However, the team would not leave on Monday, one government and one diplomatic source told Reuters.
    One of the sources, a senior government official, said the negotiating team may fly on Tuesday.
    He added that the cause of the delay was partly due to the Taliban and officials in Doha sorting out final logistical questions over the opening ceremony, including who should be given time to speak and how flags should be arranged.
    These matters carry symbolic weight for the two sides, each of whom have questioned each other’s legitimacy to present themselves as governing powers.
    The second issue was finalizing plans for around six prisoners to leave Afghan prisons and be transferred to Qatar, in a compromise struck with the Taliban last week, the two sources said.    Western governments have objected to their release.
    Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that there were no “major issues” causing the delay, adding that they were waiting for the six prisoners to be released, but technical teams from both sides were working on the issue.
    Major players including United States Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has helped usher the talks since Washington signed a troop withdrawal pact with the Taliban in February, are also in Doha in advance of the talks.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; additional reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Abdul Qadi Sediqi; writing by Charlotte Greenfield, Editing by William Maclean)

9/7/2020 Indian Army Asks China’s PLA If Missing Civilians In Their Custody
Indian army soldiers carry a coffin containing the body of Tenzin Nyima, a senior rank Tibetan official from
India's Special Frontier Force, during his cremation ceremony in Leh, September 7, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) – The Indian Army has asked its Chinese counterpart if five civilians who went missing from an eastern border state days ago were in their custody, an Indian military spokesman said on Monday.
    Relations between the nuclear-armed Asian giants have hit a multi-decade low since clashes at their western Himalayan border in June that killed 20 Indian soldiers.
    Both sides have since stepped up monitoring of their largely unsettled 3,488 km (2,167 miles) border.
    The five missing men are from the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is also claimed by China that calls it South Tibet, and the Indian Army said it told China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) about the five on Saturday.
    “We spoke with them on the hotline and told them that it’s suspected that some people have crossed across to your side and we will be grateful if you could hand them over back, as per what we do normally,” Lieutenant Colonel Harsh Wardhan Pande, a spokesman for India’s defense forces, told Reuters.
    “There is no earmarked line going through the forest or the mountains, so they keep moving here and there. So they might have gone there.    It’s a very normal thing.”
    He said they were yet to hear back from the Chinese.
    A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said at a daily briefing that he was not aware of the situation.
    Separately, a Tibetan member of an Indian special forces unit who died days ago in a mine blast near the site of a border flare-up with Chinese troops in the western Himalayas was cremated on Monday.    His death gave a rare glimpse into a little-known group of elite, high-altitude warriors drawn mainly from Tibetan refugees in India.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Michael Perry and Hugh Lawson)

9/7/2020 Indonesia Reports 2,880 New Coronavirus Cases, 105 Deaths
FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks are seen at the Jatinegara market area amid the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 6, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 2,880 new coronavirus infections and 105 more coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, data issued by the country’s COVID-19 task force showed.
    It was the lowest rise in daily infections in six days and brought the Southeast Asian country’s total cases to 196,989, while fatalities rose to 8,130.
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki and Stanley Widianto; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies)

9/7/2020 China Imposing New Restrictions On U.S. Journalists by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, Chinese staffers adjust a U.S. flag before the opening session of trade negotiations between
U.S. and Chinese trade representatives at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool, File)
    China is delaying press credentials for American journalists.    On Monday, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China announced at least five journalists from four U.S.-based news outlets have been impacted by the restrictions.
    This is reportedly in direct response to visa restrictions the U.S. placed on Chinese journalists.    Instead of the press passes, the affected American journalists received letters granting them temporary status, which could be taken away by communist authorities at any point.
    Chinese officials said the journalists can continue to work and be treated fairly as long as Chinese journalists in the U.S. are allowed the same.
    “All the options are on the table from the Chinese side and the U.S. side is very clear about this,” stated Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.    “If the U.S. insists on going its own way and continues to make more and more mistakes, China can only be forced to make the necessary and legitimate responses.”
    The Chinese Foreign Ministry particularly urged the U.S. to extend visas for all Chinese journalists in the country as soon as possible.

9/7/2020 China To Launch Initiative To Set Global Data-Security Rules: WSJ
FILE PHOTO: China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the media during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister
Heiko Maas (not pictured) as part of a meeting in Berlin, Germany September 1, 2020. Michael Sohn/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    (Reuters) – China is launching an initiative to set global standards on data security, countering U.S. efforts to persuade countries to ringfence their networks from Chinese technology, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
    Under its “Global Initiative on Data Security,” China would call on all countries to handle data security in a “comprehensive, objective and evidence-based manner,” the Journal said, citing a draft that it had reviewed.
    The initiative would urge countries to oppose “mass surveillance against other states” and call on tech companies not to install “backdoors in their products and services to illegally obtain users’ data, control or manipulate users’ systems and devices.”
    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is scheduled to announce the initiative on Tuesday at a seminar in Beijing on global digital governance, the report said.
    Chinese diplomats have approached a number of foreign governments to seek their support for Beijing’s new initiative, according to the report.
    The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump in recent months has tightened its restrictions on Chinese companies, citing national security concerns. Washington also rolled out a “Clean Network” initiative to exclude Chinese tech firms perceived as threatening national security.
    Separately, Trump on Monday raised the idea of separating the U.S. and Chinese economies, suggesting the United States would not lose money if the world’s two biggest economies no longer did business.
(Reporting by Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler)

9/8/2020 Eyeing China, Taiwan Urges Alliance Against ‘Aggressive Actions’
FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks to the media in Taipei, Taiwan, August 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen called on Tuesday for an alliance of democracies to defend against “aggressive actions” and protect freedom, alluding to Chinese actions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait as major threats to regional stability.
    China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own, has ramped up its military activities around the island, as well as in the disputed East and South China Seas.
    Speaking in Taipei at a forum attended by top Taiwanese security officials and senior Western diplomats, Tsai said Taiwan stood at the forefront of defending democracy from “authoritarian aggression.”
    While Taiwan is committed to boosting its defensive capabilities, maintaining regional peace and security needs collaborative efforts, she added.
    “The rapid militarisation of the South China Sea, increasing and frequent grey-zone tactics in the Taiwan Strait and East China Sea, coercive diplomacy used against countries and corporations…are all destabilising the Indo-Pacific region,” Tsai said, without directly naming China.
    “It is time for like-minded countries, and democratic friends in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, to discuss a framework to generate sustained and concerted efforts to maintain a strategic order that deters unilateral aggressive actions.”
    She called for a strategy that avoided war, yet conveyed the resolve to protect democracies by encouraging cooperation, transparency and problem-solving through dialogue.
    China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty over the island, which has responded by seeking closer ties with what it calls “like-minded” democracies.
    This is primarily the United States, but also includes Australia, Britain, Canada, the European Union and Japan, none of which maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
    Apart from the United States, Taiwan’s main arms supplier, the other nations generally only offer occasional moral support, such as calling for the World Health Organization to grant proper access to non-member Taiwan.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

9/8/2020 Hong Kong Residents Arrested At Sea ‘Will Have To Be Dealt With’ By Mainland China: Lam
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wearing a face mask following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak,
speaks at a weekly news conference in Hong Kong, China, September 8, 2020. REUTERS/Joyce Zhou
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Twelve people from Hong Kong arrested as they reportedly sailed to Taiwan for political asylum will “have to be dealt with” by mainland China, but the city government would try to provide assistance, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.
    Chinese authorities arrested the 12 people on Aug. 23 after intercepting a boat off the coast of the southern mainland province of Guangdong.    Local media have reported they were headed to Taiwan to apply for political asylum.
    “The question is not a question of simply getting (them) back,” Lam told a regular weekly press conference.
    “If these Hong Kong residents were arrested for breaching mainland offences then they have to be dealt with according to the mainland laws and in accordance to the jurisdiction before any other things could happen.”
    Lam added that her government had “a duty to render assistance” to Hong Kong residents “caught in all sorts of situations” abroad and the government’s representative office in Guangzhou, Guangdong’s capital, will look into ways to provide that assistance and liaise with mainland authorities.
    News agency AFP reported on Monday lawyers representing some of those captured have been denied access to their clients. Lam did not address that particular aspect when asked.
    Neither mainland nor Hong Kong authorities have publicly confirmed who has been arrested, but local media have identified some of them as facing prosecution for involvement in pro-democracy protests last year.
    One man, Andy Li, was recently arrested under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on the semiautonomous Asian financial hub on June 30.    Another is a dual national with Hong Kong and Portuguese citizenship.
    The Guangdong Coast Guard, which announced the arrests on its social media platform late on Aug. 26, said two of the detained were surnamed Li and Tang, without providing further details.
    It is not clear what charges they face, beyond potentially illegal border crossing.
    Lam also reiterated a remark made last week which stoked further worries that Hong Kong had taken a more authoritarian turn, saying the city had no separation of powers, and that its executive, legislative and judicial powers were derived from Beijing.
(Reporting by Clare Jim and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry)

9/8/2020 Japan’s Suga Says Coronavirus Will Take Priority In Deciding On Snap Election by Leika Kihara and Linda Sieg
FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker, speaks during a news conference
to announce his candidacy for the party's leadership election, in Tokyo, Japan September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – As Japan’s ruling party formally kicked off its leadership race on Tuesday, frontrunner and chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said that preventing the spread of the coronavirus should take priority in any decision to call a snap election.
    Suga, a favourite to succeed incumbent Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is stepping down due to poor health, also stressed that the biggest job for the new prime minister will be to revive the coronavirus-ravaged economy.
    “Thinking about the dissolution of parliament and a general election, of course, we have to prioritize the coronavirus infection situation,” Suga told a news conference on Tuesday.
    “What all of our people are expecting is to see the coronavirus infection contained as soon as possible so they can feel safe and their daily lives return to normal.”
    Suga is widely expected to win the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) leadership election on Sept. 14, a date set after Abe’s decision to step down last month.    The winner is virtually assured of becoming premier because of the LDP’s parliamentary majority.
    Markets have been rife with speculation that if elected, Suga might call a snap election to solidify his political grip.    He signalled in an Asahi Shimbun interview that there was a chance of calling snap elections but cautioned that the coronavirus would impact any such decision.
    That speculation got a boost after opinion polls showed a jump in voter approval of Suga and of Abe’s achievements.
    The LDP leadership race among Suga and two rivals – former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba and ex-foreign minister Fumio Kishida – kicked off formally on Tuesday.
    But Suga, chief cabinet secretary since December 2012, has already locked in support from most of the party’s factions.
    In his first campaign speech, earlier on Tuesday, Suga, 71, said he would pursue his boss’s signature “Abenomics” policies of hyper-easy monetary policy and government spending while grappling with the twin challenges of a coronavirus outbreak and reviving the virus-hit economy.
    “We must first overcome this (pandemic) crisis, and then want to achieve strong economic growth by carrying out intensive reform and necessary investment to aim for new targets such as digitalization and supply chains,” Suga said, adding he wants to break down bureaucratic barriers to reforms.
    Japan’s economy sank deeper into its worst postwar contraction in the second quarter as the coronavirus jolted businesses more than initially thought, data showed on Tuesday.
    “The key in this ruling party election is how to revive an economy that suffered its biggest postwar slump,” Suga said.
    “That’s the responsibility for someone who will lead the country.”
    Suga, who has little diplomatic experience, will also confront a range of geopolitical challenges, including building ties with the winner of the U.S. presidential election and dealing with tensions with China over its maritime assertiveness.
    In remarks light on security and foreign affairs, Suga noted that Japan’s security environment was tough and said he wanted to build “stable ties” with Japan’s neighbours, including China.
    He gave little space to the issue of revising Japan’s post-war, pacifist constitution – one of Abe’s cherished goals – saying only he wanted to pursue “constructive debate” that went beyond the ruling-opposition parties’ divide.
(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto, Antoni Slodkowski, Ju-min Park and Elaine Lies; Editing by Stephen Coates, Gerry Doyle & Shri Navaratnam)

9/8/2020 Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Vows Victory In Election As Campaign Starts Despite Virus Surge
A worker prepares t-shirts depicting Aung San Suu Kyi at a printing house as election campaigns kick-off
in Yangon, Myanmar, September 7, 2020. Picture taken September 7, 2020. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin
    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi launched her re-election bid on Tuesday ahead of polls set for November, vowing victory at a scaled-down ceremony in the capital after her original plans were scuppered by a surge in coronavirus cases.
    “Today, our victory campaign has begun,” she said, before hoisting the party’s flag at the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Naypyitaw at an event broadcast on her Facebook page.
    The election is set to serve as a test of the country’s first democratic government in half a century and is seen by analysts as an important test of Myanmar’s transition away from direct military rule as it grapples with crises on multiple fronts.
    Suu Kyi, who rules as state counselor, had planned to launch her campaign in the commercial capital of Yangon but cancelled the trip on Monday on advice of the health ministry.
    Wearing a red mask decorated with a peacock, the emblem of the NLD, and a plastic face shield, she thanked supporters for flying the party’s red flag at their homes across the country.
    “I’d like to say that to make our victory flag long-lasting means making the nation’s peace, development, and prosperity long-lasting,” she said.
    The NLD, which won a landslide at 2015 polls that ended half-a-century of military and military-backed rule, is expected to win again though by a lesser margin.
    The party remains overwhelmingly popular despite criticism over its failure to curb the power of the army or end escalating ethnic conflicts.    It has also faced international condemnation over a 2017 military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority.
    Preparations for the Nov. 8 polls have been overshadowed by a worsening outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which is adding pressure on the economy.    The World Bank has predicted economic growth to drop from 6.8 percent to just 0.5 percent this financial year.
    The country had gone weeks without a local transmission and many regulations had been relaxed until mid-August when cases were detected in the western state of Rakhine.
    The number of cases has tripled since to 1,562 and eight deaths.    The health ministry reported 93 new cases on Tuesday.
    Authorities have enforced a second partial lockdown in Yangon, issuing stay-at-home orders for select townships and banning dine-in services at restaurants and bars. Schools across the country have been closed and flights in and out are limited.
    Last week, officials sealed off the capital, Naypyitaw, where the government is based, imposing mandatory quarantine and coronavirus tests for any visitors.
    Gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned, and political parties say they are planning smaller campaign events.
(Editing by Michael Perry)

9/8/2020 Sri Lanka Says Has ‘Better Control’ Over New Fire In Oil Tanker by Arjuna Ranawana
FILE PHOTO: A Sri Lankan Navy boat sprays water on the New Diamond, a very large crude carrier (VLCC) chartered
by Indian Oil Corp (IOC), that was carrying the equivalent of about 2 million barrels of oil, after a fire
broke out off east coast of Sri Lanka September 6, 2020. Sri Lankan Airforce media/Handout via REUTERS
    COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka has “better control” over a fresh fire on a loaded supertanker off the island nation and is looking for any signs of potential oil leaks from the ship.
    A fire first broke out last Thursday in the engine room of the very large crude carrier New Diamond and spread to the bridge of the vessel, which was chartered by Indian Oil Corp for importing 2 million barrels of oil from Kuwait.    That blaze was doused on Sunday.
    However, new flames erupted on Monday.    The re-ignition of the fire occurred on the “right side of the vessel near the funnel at the rear,” and is not near the tanks carrying crude oil, Navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva said.
    De Silva said that the fire was still burning but the fire fighting team has better control of the blaze.
    “All members of the salvage team have arrived at the scene as more boundary cooling efforts are being done,” he said, adding “additional assets, salvage personnel and fire fighting equipment is on the way.”
    Sri Lanka has deployed scientists and experts from its Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) to assess the environmental damage caused by the fire.
    One team will examine the ocean area where the burning ship is located and another is examining the coastal areas in the island’s eastern seaboard for signs of pollution, said Jagath Gunesekara, deputy General Manager of MEPA.
    The New Diamond is about 30 nautical miles, or about 56 km (35 miles), east of Sangaman point, Sri Lanka’s easternmost point.
    Gunesekara said the experts will assess if the oil leaked from vessel into the sea or damage the beaches and marine life.
(Reporting by Arjuna Ranawana; Writing by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

9/8/2020 China’s Xi Honours COVID-19 ‘Heroes’, As Focus Shifts To Economic Recovery by David Stanway and Martin Quin Pollard
Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds during a meeting to commend role models in China's fight against the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China September 8, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – President Xi Jinping honoured the “heroes” of China’s “people’s war” against COVID-19 at a ceremony on Tuesday, lauding the country’s resilience as well as the decisive role played in containment efforts by the ruling Communist Party.
    Defying charges from the United States and elsewhere that early failures enabled the coronavirus pandemic to spread more quickly, Xi said that China acted in an open and transparent manner throughout, and took decisive actions that saved lives.
    “China has helped save the lives of tens of millions of people around the world with its practical actions, showing China’s sincere desire to build a common future and community for humanity,” Xi said at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
    He said China is the first major economy to return to growth during the pandemic – a fact he said demonstrates the country’s resilience and vitality.
    Xi awarded Zhong Nanshan, the senior medical adviser and coronavirus expert who helped shape China’s COVID-19 response, with a Medal of the Republic, the country’s highest honour.
    There was no mention of Li Wenliang, the doctor who was punished for spreading information about a new infectious disease in Wuhan, and whose death from COVID-19 in February sparked nationwide outrage.
    Beijing faced criticism at home and overseas in the early days of the outbreak, with some describing COVID-19 as “China’s Chernobyl” – referring to the 1986 nuclear accident that destroyed confidence in the Soviet Union’s ability to govern.
    Local authorities in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus was first identified, were accused of a cover-up that delayed the country’s emergency response by at least two weeks.
    But as infections spread throughout the world while slowing domestically, Beijing grew more assertive, resisting global investigations into the origins of the outbreak and saying its swift actions helped buy time for other countries to prepare.
    State media has stressed Xi’s role in China’s containment of the virus.
    The official Xinhua news agency said in a long special report on Tuesday that Xi has worked tirelessly since January and even suffered sleepless nights as he “shouldered the extremely difficult mission of fighting the epidemic.”
    Beijing has sought to focus on China’s success at overcoming the virus, rather than its origins.
    During a government-arranged tour of Wuhan last week, reporters were shown schools and tourist sites reopening, but were not allowed to report from the Huanan seafood market where the outbreak was first believed to have originated.
    “The shifting narrative is aided by the government’s success in containing the spread and it has been quite successful at home, though internationally it isn’t as successful as it would hope,” said Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. think tank.
(Reporting by David Stanway, Martin Pollard and Lusha Zhang; Editing by Tony Munroe and Michael Perry)

9/8/2020 Iran Building New Production Hall For Centrifuges In Mountains Near Natanz
A view of a damage building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility,
in Isfahan, Iran, July 2, 2020. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/WANA
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has begun to build a hall in “the heart of the mountains” near its Natanz nuclear site for making advanced centrifuges, Iran’s nuclear chief said on Tuesday, aiming to replace a production hall at the facility hit by fire in July.
    Iran said at the time that the fire was the result of sabotage and had caused significant damage that could slow the development of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges.
    “Due to the sabotage, it was decided to build a more modern, larger and more comprehensive hall in all dimensions in the heart of the mountain near Natanz. Of course, the work has begun,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, according to state TV.
    Natanz is the centrepiece of Iran’s enrichment programme, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.    Western intelligence agencies and the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog (IAEA) believe Iran had a coordinated, clandestine nuclear arms programme that it halted in 2003.    Tehran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons.
    The Natanz uranium-enrichment site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
    A confrontation between arch foes Tehran and Washington has worsened since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
    Under the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions.    In reaction to U.S. sanctions, Tehran has gradually distanced itself from the nuclear pact.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Gareth Jones, William Maclean)

9/8/2020 U.S. Envoy Meets New Taliban Chief Negotiator As Afghan Peace Talks Near by Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Jibran Ahmad
FILE PHOTO: U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, speaks during a debate
at Tolo TV channel in Kabul, Afghanistan April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
    KABUL/PESHAWAR (Reuters) – U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held a meeting in Doha with the head of the new Taliban team due to open peace talks with a team representing the Afghan government, the Islamist insurgent group said on Tuesday.
    The negotiations, the result of an agreement between Washington and the Taliban, are to begin in Doha after the release of the last half-dozen or so of 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
    The Afghan negotiators had been expected to fly from Kabul to Doha this week, but are awaiting a signal from the Afghan government that the release – to which Western governments have objected – is going ahead.
    In Doha, the head of the Taliban’s political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and the new head of the Taliban’s negotiating team, Abdul Hakim Haqqani, met with Khalilzad and Qatar’s deputy prime minister on Monday, Taliban spokesman Dr Mohammad Naeem said in a statement shared on Twitter.
    “Issues related to the prisoners’ release and immediate start of the intra-Afghan talks were discussed,” Naeem said.
    Talks with American officials had for the last two years been led by Baradar, who signed a peace deal with Washington this year that paved the way for an international troop withdrawal and intra-Afghan negotiations.
    Last week, however, Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada announced that a new, 21-member team would be headed by Haqqani and not Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban, who has been left out entirely.
    Three Taliban commanders based in Afghanistan told Reuters that senior fighters on the ground had in recent weeks expressed reservations about Baradar’s dominance in the talks.
    However, Taliban officials told Reuters the team had been changed to give it power to take decisions on the spot.     Haqqani, the Taliban’s former shadow chief justice, also heads its powerful council of religious scholars, according to two senior Taliban officials who did not want to named.
    One official said Akhunzada trusted Haqqani more than anyone else in the group: “(His) presence basically means our supreme leader himself will attend the peace talks.”
    A diplomat following the peace process from Kabul told Reuters, on condition of anonymity: “Baradar might be effective, but Haqqani is senior.    What we know is this was done to have a more authoritative team that can take the decision over there.”
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul and Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar; Additional reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad and Rupam Nair in Mumbai; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

9/9/2020 Roadside Bomb Attack Misses Afghan Vice President, But Kills 10
SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB: Afghan men carry a victim
after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan September 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
    KABUL (Reuters) – A roadside bomb in Kabul targeted first Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Wednesday morning but he escaped unharmed, his spokesman said. The attack killed at least 10 people.
    The Taliban denied involvement in the attack, which comes just ahead of long-awaited peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Qatar’s capital Doha.
    “Today, once again the enemy of Afghanistan tried to harm Saleh, but they failed in their evil aim, and Saleh escaped the attack unharmed,” Razwan Murad, a spokesman for Saleh’s office, wrote on Facebook.
    He told Reuters the bomb targeted Saleh’s convoy and some of his bodyguards were injured.
    Saleh appeared in a video on his social media accounts soon after, saying he had sustained a minor burn on his face and an injury to his hand in the attack.
    Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a post on Twitter that Taliban fighters were not involved in the blast.
    The former intelligence chief and the senior of President Ashraf Ghani’s two vice-presidents, has survived several assassination attempts, including one on his office last year that killed 20 people.
    Wednesday’s blast killed at least 10 civilians and wounded 15 people including Saleh’s security guards, according to the interior ministry.
    “Such attacks won’t weaken our resolve for a lasting and dignified peace in Afghanistan,” Javid Faisal, spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a tweet.
    International powers including the European Union and Pakistan also condemned the attack.
    “This is an attack on the Republic, & desperate act by spoilers of peace efforts, who must be collectively confronted,” the EU Delegation in Afghanistan said in a statement on Twitter.
    Officials and diplomats have warned that rising violence is sapping trust needed for the success of talks aimed at ending an insurgency that began when the Taliban was ousted from power in Kabul by U.S.-back forces in late 2001.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Orooj Hakimi; Writing by Gibran Peshimam and Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Michael Perry and Himani Sarkar)

9/9/2020 China Says Australia Searched Homes Of Four Chinese Journalists
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday Australian authorities had searched and seized items from the homes of four Chinese journalists, including reporters from state news agency Xinhua and the China News Service.
    Australia did not give a reason for the searches or return the seized items, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a daily news briefing in Beijing.
    Reports of the searches emerged after two Australian journalists returned home with the help of consular officials after the pair were visited at their homes in Beijing and Shanghai and later questioned by China’s state security ministry.
(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Writing by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

9/9/2020 Japan’s Suga Vows To Put Growth Ahead Of Fiscal Reform, Signals Status Quo Of Abenomics by Leika Kihara and Chris Gallagher
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga waves after a debate organized by the Liberal Democratic Party,
Youth Bureau and Women's Bureau at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo, Japan September 9, 2020. Philip Fong/Pool via REUTERS
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Yoshihide Suga, on course to become Japan’s next prime minister, said he would maintain incumbent premier Shinzo Abe’s policy prioritising economic growth over efforts to fix the country’s tattered finances.
    Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, also said he would continue to focus on revitalising regional economies, which he described as among key pillars of “Abenomics.”
    “A strong economy is necessary for social welfare, national security and fiscal reform,” Suga told a debate hosted by the ruling party on Wednesday.    “We must first revive the economy, because only then can we push through fiscal reform.”
    The remarks reinforce market expectations that an administration led by Suga won’t trigger big changes to the pro-growth economic policies Shinzo Abe championed during his nearly eight-year stint as prime minister.
    If he becomes Japan’s next leader, Suga will face the daunting task of containing the coronavirus pandemic while managing the economic consequences.
    Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, sank deeper into its worst postwar recession in the second quarter, data showed on Tuesday, underscoring the challenges policymakers faces in dealing with the economic blow from COVID-19.
    Suga enjoys a comfortable lead in the ruling party’s race against two rival candidates vying to succeed Abe.
    The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership election will be held on Sept. 14, a date set after Abe’s decision to step down for health reasons. The winner is virtually assured of becoming premier because of the LDP’s parliamentary majority.
    An Asahi newspaper tally showed Suga has support to become the LDP’s leader from 308 – almost 80% – of ruling party members with seats in parliament.
    That means he already has 58% of total LDP votes – more than the majority required – without even counting the additional 141 votes from party prefecture chapters.
    Suga has played a key role as Abe’s lieutenant in pushing through Abenomics, though the policies’ initial gains have been wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.
    On North Korea, Suga repeated his stance that he was prepared to meet with the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, “with no preconditions” if needed to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents.
(Reporting by Leika Kihara, Chris Gallagher and Kaori Kaneko; additional reporting by Linda Sieg, Antoni Slodkowski and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle.)

9/9/2020 Exclusive: Japan Ruling Coalition Partner Komeito Indicates It Does Not Want Snap Election by Tim Kelly and Ami Miyazaki
FILE PHOTO: Komeito Party leader Natsuo Yamaguchi attends a debate session with other party leaders ahead of July 21
upper house election at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Japan July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – The leader of the Japanese ruling coalition’s junior partner, Komeito, on Wednesday indicated his party does not want a snap general election after the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) picks a new leader to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
    “The top priority is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. People want to get back to business and return to work, and I don’t believe they want a power vacuum of a month or two that would result from calling an election,” Natsuo Yamaguchi told Reuters in an interview.
    Komeito, backed by Japan’s largest Buddhist lay group, provides crucial election support to the ruling party by encouraging its members to campaign for LDP candidates.
    Without its backing, the next LDP leader, who by dint of the LDP’s parliamentary majority is almost certain of becoming prime minister, is unlikely to dissolve the assembly.
    Yamaguchi’s comments come amid speculation that the front runner to win the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP’s) leadership election on Sept. 14, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, could call a snap election.,br>     Suga has said his priority is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, but he signalled there was a chance of calling a snap election in an interview published by the Asahi newspaper.
    An early election could heighten expectations the government would lay out additional pandemic spending measures to appeal to voters.
    Data released on Tuesday showed Japan’s economy sank deeper into its worst post-war contraction in the second quarter, underscoring the challenges the next prime minister faces in dealing with COVID-19.
    “Komeito has strongly argued that the top priority is to halt the coronavirus and to revive social and economic activity,” Yamaguchi said.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Ami Miyazaki; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

9/9/2020 U.S. Becoming Key Driver Of Militarization In South China Sea, Says Top China Diplomat
FILE PHOTO: China's State Councillor Wang Yi is pictured during a meeting with Canada's Foreign
Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne in Rome, Italy, August 25, 2020. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Chinese government’s senior diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said on Wednesday the United States is directly intervening in territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea due to its own political needs.
    It is becoming the biggest driver of militarization in the region, Wang said.
    He made the remark in a video conference with foreign ministers at an ASEAN summit.
    “Peace and stability is China’s greatest strategic interest in the South China Sea.    It is also the common strategic aspiration of China and ASEAN countries,” Wang said in a statement posted on the foreign ministry’s website.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong and Colin Qian in Beijing; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

9/10/2020 Myanmar Police Detain Student Protesters In Rakhine State
Students protest against months-long internet shutdown in Rakhine state in Myanmar, September 9, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    (Reuters) – Myanmar police detained three students after breaking up an anti-government demonstration in the restive Rakhine state on Wednesday, a student group and a human rights body said on Thursday.
    They said the three men, in their early twenties, were taken away in the state capital of Sittwe after protesting with placards that read “oppose murdering fascism” and called for the restoration of internet access, which authorities say has been cut in swathes of Rakhine for security reasons.
    A police officer in Sittwe hung up the phone when contacted by Reuters for comment on the detention of the students.
    Video streamed on social media from the police station on Thursday showed dozens of people outside to demand the release of the men.
    Rakhine state has been roiled for more than a year by fighting between government troops and ethnic insurgents from the Arakan Army, which is fighting for greater autonomy for the western region.
    Tens of thousands have been displaced and dozens killed in shelling and crossfire.
    Thaw Zin Tun, a spokesman for the Arakan Students’ Union, the group that organised the protest, said on Thursday the three had been detained pending further investigation but there had been no contact with them since their arrest.
    Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN), a U.K-based campaign group, said the three arrested were part of a group of students that had visited minority Rohingya camps outside Sittwe in recent weeks.
    Tens of thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Rakhine state, are confined to camps and villages and deprived of rights including freedom of movement.
    The state has long been a tinderbox of tension between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine, a mostly Buddhist group that make up the majority.
    Kyaw Win, founder of BHRN said the students were “an example of a way to a better future in Burma, yet have been criminalised and deprived of their freedoms.”
(Editing by Michael Perry)

9/10/2020 Japan’s Suga Is Voters’ Favourite To Succeed PM Abe: Poll
FILE PHOTO: Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga attends a debate organized by the Liberal Democratic Party,
Youth Bureau and Women's Bureau at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo, Japan September 9, 2020. Philip Fong/Pool via REUTERS
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga is the voters’ favourite to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to a poll published by the daily Mainichi Shimbun on Thursday.
    About 44% of respondents, asked whom they would pick as Abe’s successor, said they would choose Suga, while 36% favoured former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba.    Suga held a clearer lead among supporters of the leading Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
    The poll, taken by the newspaper and Social Survey Research Centre, is the latest to show the chief cabinet secretary as the most popular candidate among ordinary voters.
    The LDP leadership election will be held on Sept. 14, with LDP lawmakers and regional party representatives casting votes.    The winner is virtually assured of becoming premier because of the LDP’s majority in parliament.
(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

9/10/2020 China Accuses U.S. Of Racial Discrimination Over Visa Cancellations
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian speaks at a news
conference in Beijing, China April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Thursday accused the United States of political persecution and racial discrimination and said it reserves the right for further reaction, after Washington said it had revoked the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers it had deemed security risks.
    The U.S. move, announced on Wednesday, was a violation of the human rights of the students, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news briefing.
(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Tony Munroe and Alex Richardson)

9/10/2020 Tokyo Lowers Alert Level As Coronavirus Fears Ease
FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective masks make their way during rush hour at Shinagawa station on the first day
after the Japanese government lifted the state of emergency in Tokyo, Japan, May 26, 2020.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo’s government on Thursday dropped its coronavirus alert by one notch from the highest level as cases continue to trend down, opening the path for a loosening of restrictions on night-time activity.
    The capital raised the alert to “red” in July on the advice of experts following a rise in infections.    Tokyo’s daily cases have gradually declined since hitting a peak of 472 cases in early August, with 276 new cases reported on Thursday.
    “Regarding the infection situation, we have lowered one level down to orange from the highest level of red. But, we need to be cautious about increases again,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said at a coronavirus response meeting.
    Separately, at a national level, a group of experts will convene on Friday to consider the easing of restrictions on large-scale events.    That follows appeals from Japan’s top baseball and soccer leagues, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters on Thursday.
    The government will also consider adding Tokyo to its “Go To Travel” subsidised domestic tourism campaign, following its exclusion after becoming a coronavirus hotspot.
    The campaign was criticised for potentially facilitating the spread of the virus.
    Tokyo governor Koike also said the Japanese capital would lift a measure that shortened hours for restaurants and karaokes from Sept. 16, considering the downward trend in the number of new cases.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey, Daniel Leussink and Ju-min Park; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Alex Richardson)

9/10/2020 Asia Summits Under Way Amid U.S.-China Friction by James Pearson and Khanh Vu
Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh chairs a video meeting with foreign ministers
from the Association of Southeast Nations ASEAN countries in Hanoi, Vietnam September 9, 2020. VNA via REUTERS
    HANOI (Reuters) – Southeast Asian foreign ministers kicked off a series of regional summits on Wednesday expected to seek collaboration to fight global threats and to try to de-escalate a tit-for-tat U.S.-China rivalry as the world’s two biggest economies vie for influence.
    Russia, Japan, Australia, South Korea and India were among other countries remotely joining an event hosted by Vietnam that will include a 27-nation security forum, as concern grows about rhetoric and accidental conflict, and about other countries being caught up in the fray.
    “The regional geopolitical and geoeconomic landscape, including the South China Sea, are witnessing growing volatilities that are detrimental to peace and stability,” Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in opening the summit.
    Vietnam’s foreign minister, Pham Binh Minh, said the role of international law and multilateral institutions was being “greatly challenged
    The U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined several countries from the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and “many other partners” in raising concerns about China’s “aggressive actions” in the South China Sea.
    Pompeo and several countries voiced concern about China’s imposition of a new national security law on Hong Kong, the arrests of pro-democracy students, postponement of the territory’s elections and disqualification of pro-democracy electoral candidates, department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
    Pompeo and other ministers also called for a cessation of violence and a negotiated solution to escalating violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and for North Korea to abandon its weapons of mass destruction, she said.
    China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, accused the United States of intervening directly in disputes among claimants in the South China Sea and of being the biggest driver of its militarisation.
    “Peace and stability is China’s greatest strategic interest in the South China Sea,” he told the meeting, according to China’s foreign ministry’s website.
    Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in an interview with Reuters cautioned the United States and China against entangling Southeast Asian nations in their geopolitical battle.
    “We don’t want to get trapped by this rivalry,” she said on Tuesday, describing militarisation of the waterway as “worrying.”
U.S.-CHINA TENSIONS
    President Donald Trump has trumpeted his tough approach to China in the run-up to his November re-election bid and his administration has spoken out strongly against Beijing over issues from ranging from trade to espionage and China’s maritime conduct.
    Washington has accused Beijing of bullying its neighbours by sending ships close to their offshore energy operations, and of opportunism in holding military exercises and testing new defence hardware in disputed locations, while rival claimants battle coronavirus outbreaks.    China says its actions were lawful.
    Since mid-August, the United States has repeatedly riled China by sending warships to the South China Sea and the sensitive Taiwan Strait and flew a reconnaissance plane over Chinese live-fire drills.
    It blacklisted 24 Chinese entities over their involvement in building and militarising artificial islands.
    “There’s no desire to take sides – or to be seen to be doing so,” said Collin Koh, a security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
    ASEAN would instead discuss with China the advancement of a code of maritime conduct and access to a COVID-19 vaccine, and talk to the United States about increasing investment from corporate America.
    ASEAN would try to “de-focus on the intensifying rivalry,” he said.
    Ortagus said Pompeo praised ASEAN unity and transparency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and underscored the U.S. commitment to partnering with ASEAN countries in economic recovery efforts.
(Reporting by James Pearson and Khanh Vu; Additional reporting by Tom Allard and Stanley Widianto in Jakarta, Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong, Colin Qian in Beijing and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Peter Cooney)

9/10/2020 Taiwan Denounces Large-Scale Chinese Drills Near Island by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard
Young Ching-se, deputy intelligence chief of Taiwan defense ministry, speaks next to a screen showing Chinese Y-8 transport
aircraft at a news conference about Chinese military drills near Taiwan, in Taipei, Taiwan September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Ben Blanchard
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan denounced China on Thursday over large-scale air and naval drills off its southwestern coast, calling them a serious provocation and a threat to international air traffic.
    It urged Beijing to rein in its armed forces.
    China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own, has stepped up military exercises near the island, in what Taipei views as intimidation to force it to accept Chinese rule.
    Yeh Kuo-hui, from Taiwan’s Defence Ministry’s operations and planning department, told a hastily arranged news conference that China’s intentions could not be predicted.
    “We must make all preparations for war readiness,” Yeh said, following a news briefing from senior officers describing the Chinese activities over the last two days, and showing a map of Chinese movements.
    The drills took place in Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, between mainland Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands, the ministry said.    Taiwan says China sent advanced Su-30 and J-10 fighters to participate.
    Taiwan Deputy Defence Minister Chang Che-ping said the drills threatened regional stability and endangered international aviation.
    “We once again say, do not underestimate the military’s determination to defend our home.    We are confident and capable of defending the country,” Chang said.
    Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said the government had shared “information related to China’s threat to key friendly nations,” a likely reference to the United States, Taiwan’s main arms supplier and most important international backer.
    The Pentagon said it was closely monitoring the military exercise.
    “The PLA activities in question are merely the latest in a string of destabilizing PLA actions aimed at both Taiwan and the broader region intended to intimidate and which increase the risk of miscalculation,” the Pentagon statement said, using an acronym for China’s People’s Liberation Army.
    China’s Defence Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.    China has held numerous military exercises up and down its coast and near the island in recent weeks.
    Taiwan this week has been carrying out live-fire weapons tests off its southeast and eastern coast.
    Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has warned of a rising risk of accidental conflict, saying communication must be maintained to cut the risk of miscalculation.
(Reporting By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry, Timothy Heritage and Leslie Adler)

9/11/2020 China, India Agree To Disengage Troops On Contested Border
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organisation meeting in Moscow, Russia September 10, 2020. Picture taken September 10, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS
    BEIJING/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – China and India said they had agreed to de-escalate renewed tensions on their contested Himalayan border and take steps to restore “peace and tranquillity” following a high-level diplomatic meeting in Moscow.
    Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar met in Moscow on Thursday and reached a five-point consensus, including agreements the current border situation is not in their interests and that troops from both sides should quickly disengage and ease tensions, the two countries said in a joint statement.
    The consensus, struck on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting, came after a clash in the border area in the western Himalayas earlier this week.
    Shares of defence-related firms fell in China early Friday after the news, with the CSI National Defense Industry Index down 1.2% and on track for its steepest weekly decline since Oct. 12, 2018.    Tongyu heavy Industry shares tumbled as much as 16.4%.
    China and India accused each other of firing into the air during the confrontation, a violation of long-held protocol not to use firearms on the sensitive frontier.
    Wang told Jaishankar during the meeting the “imperative is to immediately stop provocations such as firing and other dangerous actions that violate the commitments made by the two sides,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
    Wang also told Jaishankar all personnel and equipment that have trespassed at the border must be moved and that frontier troops on both sides “must quickly disengage” in order to de-escalate the situation.
    The comments contrast with recent show of force by the Chinese military.    China’s Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, reported on Wednesday the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were moving soldiers, bombers and armoured vehicles into the border.
    Chinese state media also recently reported armed jump drills by PLA paratroopers in Tibet.
    The Global Times said in an editorial published late Thursday that any talks with India should be paired with “war readiness.”
    “The Chinese side must be fully prepared to take military action when diplomatic engagement fails, and its frontline troops must be able to respond to emergencies, and be ready to fight at any time,” the newspaper said.
    “India has an abnormal confidence in confronting China.    It does not have enough strength.    If India is kidnapped by extreme nationalist forces and keeps following its radical China policy, it will pay a heavy price.”
(Reporting by Beijing newsroom and Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Michael Perry, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle)

9/11/2020 Abe Plan For Land-Attack Counterpunch Could Mark Major Military Shift For Japan by Tim Kelly and Kiyoshi Takenaka
FILE PHOTO: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer Kurama (L), which is carrying Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,
leads the JMSDF fleet during its fleet review at Sagami Bay, off Yokosuka, south of Tokyo October 18, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Months before he announced his resignation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set in motion a policy change that could for the first time allow Japan’s military to plan for strikes on land targets in China and other parts of Asia.
    Japan’s Self Defence Forces are geared toward stopping attackers in the air and the sea. The policy change would direct the military to create a doctrine for targeting enemy sites on land – a mission that would require the purchase of long-range weapons such as cruise missiles.
    If adopted by the next government, the policy would mark one of the most significant shifts in Japan’s military stance since the end of World War Two.    It reflects Abe’s longstanding push for a more robust military and Tokyo’s deepening concern about Chinese influence in the region.
    The Japanese government is worried by China’s increased military activity around disputed East China Sea islets.
    “The main reason for our action is China.    We haven’t really emphasised that too much, but the security choices we make are because of     China,” Masahisa Sato, a lawmaker from Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party who has served as a deputy defence minister and a deputy foreign minister, said in an interview.
    Japan renounced its right to wage war after World War Two, making the issue of striking targets on land – which would entail attacks on foreign soil – contentious for its Asian neighbours, particularly China.
    Abe said last month he was stepping down because of worsening health.    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who is seen as less hawkish than Abe but is closely aligned with him, is expected to win the race to replace him as party leader and become premier.
GOVERNMENT POLICY
    Abe instructed senior defence policymakers in June to come up with LDP proposals for the military that included a land-attack, or strike, doctrine.
    That proposal will become government policy if it is included in a revised national defence strategy, which appears likely, according to two insiders, including LDP acting Secretary General Tomomi Inada.
    “I don’t think there is much opposition to it in the LDP,” Inada told Reuters.    “That direction doesn’t change even with a new prime minister.”
    The military can already use long-range missiles to strike ships.    It considers such plans justified because it needs to be able to destroy weapons threatening Japan.    The land-attack proposal is framed using the same reasoning, according to former defence minister Itsunori Onodera.
    Therefore, proponents say, Japan’s laws will not need to change.    During his eight years in office, Abe pushed for but failed to achieve his goal of revising the post-war constitution’s pacifist Article 9.
    Japan’s National Security Council, which Abe leads and includes key cabinet officials, including Suga, will meet Friday to discuss defence strategy.
    U.S.-made BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles would be an option for land-attack weapons, said Katsutoshi Kawano, who until last year was Japan’s most senior military officer, the Chairman of Self Defense Forces Chief of Staffs.
    Tomahawks can hit targets 2,500 kilometres (1,553 miles) away. That would put most of China and much of the Russian Far East within range.
    “Japan could probably have strike capability within five years,” Kawano said.    “A full strike package including targeting satellites and electronic warfare components would, however, be far more expensive and take more than 10 years to acquire.”
    In the meantime, Japan would have to rely on the United States for intelligence and surveillance.
POLITICS
    To move the proposal forward, the next government will need to complete a revised defence strategy and midterm procurement plan by the end of December, before the defence ministry submits its annual budget request.
    That could meet resistance from the LDP’s coalition partner, the Buddhist-backed Komeito, which worries such a move would antagonise China and threaten Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.
    “It could spark an arms race and raise tension.    It would be technically difficult and would require huge investment,” Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said in an interview.    “This is something that has to be thought seriously about under the new Prime Minister.”
    Even some LDP’s security hawks, including one of Suga’s leadership rivals, former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba, see a potential downside to acquiring long-range cruise missiles.
    “What happens if the United States asks Japan to fire them, and we don’t want to?” he asked.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Kiyoshi Takenaka, additional reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto and Ami Miyazaki; Editing by David Dolan and Gerry Doyle)

9/11/2020 Philippine Health Ministry Says No Conditions Set To Access U.S. Vaccines
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton (C) is escorted by U.S. security officers
into a court in Olongapo city, north of Manila December 1, 2015. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines will have access to potential COVID-19 vaccines being developed by U.S. firms without any strings attached, the health ministry said on Friday, after the presidential spokesman had linked the pardoning of a U.S. Marine to ensuring access.
    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said none of the U.S. vaccine makers the government is in talks with had set conditions, adding all potential vaccines will undergo a regulatory process to ensure safety and efficacy.
    “No conditions were provided or given to us,” Vergeire told a news conference.
    The Philippines, which is among a number of developing countries with big populations trying to secure a supply of COVID-19 vaccine, has met with U.S. vaccine manufacturers Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc.
    It has also held discussions with China and Russia, which are among countries leading the global race to develop coronavirus inoculations.
    Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to pardon a U.S. marine convicted of killing a transgender woman nearly six years ago may have stemmed from his desire to ensure access to coronavirus vaccines.    But Roque reiterated on Friday that he was merely stating a personal opinion.
    Pemberton was serving a six- to 10-year sentence for killing Jennifer Laude near a former U.S. navy base in 2014.    He will likely be released from a military jail and deported this weekend, the Bureau of Immigration said.
    Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said U.S. officials were “surprised” by the pardon.    While they inquired about Pemberton, they did not push for his release, he told ANC News channel.
    The Philippines has the most COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with more than 248,000 confirmed infections.
    The Southeast Asian country plans to buy 40 million doses worth $400 million for 20 million people, about a fifth of its 107 million population.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies)

9/11/2020 Taiwan President Visits Air Defence Battery As China Tensions Rise
FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks to the media in Taipei, Taiwan, August 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited an air defence missile base on Friday, where she urged the troops to be steadfast in their defence of the island’s sovereignty and democracy as tensions with China continue to rise.
    Taiwan, claimed by China as its own, says that Chinese forces carried out two-days of large-scale air and naval exercises off Taiwan’s southwest and in its air defence identification zone, denouncing it as provocation.
    China has stepped up its military activity around Taiwan this year.
    Tsai, who was re-elected by a landslide in January promising to stand up to China, observed exercises and chatted to soldiers thanking them for their hard work, in video footage provided by the government.
    “At the moment the Chinese Communist’s aircraft harassing of Taiwan and military exercises have been quite frequent,” Tsai said.    “I believe that everyone is clear about this situation in performing their mission, and know they have a huge responsibility.”
Taiwan’s skies and people are safe because of their hard work, she added.
    “I want to encourage everyone by saying ‘don’t give an inch of the nation’s sovereignty, and hold fast to democracy and freedom.’    This is our conviction and resolve to protect our home and defend our country.    Please all take this to heart.”
    China has not yet responded to Taiwan’s complaints about the recent drills, which happened between mainland Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the northern part of the South China Sea.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill)

9/11/2020 South Korea Sees Uptick In COVID-19 Cases As New Cluster Infections Continue by Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: A couple walks amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at a shopping district
in the Gangnam area of Seoul, South Korea, September 9, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea posted a slight rise in daily coronavirus cases on Friday, as infections eased from a church and political rally that sparked a second wave of outbreaks and new cases emerged in religious and sporting groups and a university hospital.
    The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 176 new cases as of midnight Thursday, which brought the total infections to 21,919, with 350 deaths.
    A fresh wave of infections erupted at a church whose members attended a large protest in downtown Seoul last month have driven the daily tally to its peak in months at 441.
    The numbers had steadily dropped to the low 100s since the government imposed unprecedented social distancing curbs late last month, with less than 10 cases traced to the church and the protesters over the past several days.
    But this week showed a resurge as smaller clusters continued to emerge from other religious gatherings, offices and medical facilities in the Seoul metropolitan area.    More than 72% of the 161 locally transmitted cases from Thursday were reported from the regions.
    Among the clusters are a hiking club with at least 35 cases confirmed so far, and a major university hospital in central Seoul where 19 people have been infected this week around its rehabilitation ward and nutrition team, KCDC data showed.
    Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the consistent outbreaks are deepening concerns as the government is set to decide on whether to extend social distancing curbs on Sunday, which include a ban on nightly on-site dining in greater Seoul.
    “It would be right to lift the restrictions, considering the sacrifices the people are making, but we’re as much worried if any hasty easing would lead to a re-spread of the virus and cause even greater pain for the public,” Chung told a meeting.
    Health authorities warned against large gatherings after several groups that steered the political rally last month are seeking to stage another protest next month.
    More than 1,700 cases have been linked to a church and the rally, becoming the country’s second largest cluster since the epidemic first emerged in January.
    “If the groups press ahead with the protest, the government will take swift steps to disband them … and strictly respond to any illegal activities based on the principle of on-the-spot arrests,” said Yoon Tae-ho, director-general for public health policy at the health ministry.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Michael Perry)

9/11/2020 Pompeo Welcomes ‘Historic’ Afghan Peace Talks
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Kosovo's Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti (not pictured)
at the State Department in Washington, D.C., U.S., September 4, 2020. Patrick Semansky/Pool via REUTERS
    KABUL (Reuters) – United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed long-awaited “historic” peace talks between the Afghan government and the insurgent Taliban while on his way to the opening event in Qatar’s capital of Doha, late on Thursday.
    The United States has been attempting to ease negotiations between the two warring sides since signing a troop withdrawal deal with the militants in February, but the process was hit by delays over disagreements about the release of prisoners.
    “It’s taken us longer than I wish that it had to get from February 29 to here but we expect Saturday morning…to have the Afghans sitting at the table together prepared to have what will be contentious discussions about how to move their country forward,” Pompeo told reporters shortly after taking off from Washington on Thursday evening. “(It’s) truly historic.”
    His arrival in Doha on Friday would coincide with the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States that triggered U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan against the Taliban, who harboured Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda militant leader who plotted the attacks.
    A diplomatic source in Kabul said that the start of talks had been arranged to ensure it did not fall on the anniversary.
    Afghan negotiators were set to fly to Doha on Friday afternoon ahead of the opening ceremony, according to the presidential palace.
    A jet had picked up six prisoners demanded by the Taliban from Kabul on Thursday.    Some Western governments had objected to their release, and as a compromise it was agreed that they would be kept under supervision in Qatar.
    France and Australia said overnight that they objected to the prisoners being released from Afghan prisons.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Charlotte Greenfield; additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

9/11/2020 U.S. Special Envoy Hails ‘Afghan-Owned’ Peace Talks Due To Start In Doha
FILE PHOTO: U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad speaks during a debate
at Tolo TV channel in Kabul, Afghanistan April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said on Friday he hoped talks between the Afghan government and Taliban due to begin on Saturday would lead to an end to the country’s long-running war, but said many challenges remain.    Khalilzad told reporters in a telephone briefing that the United States would engage the participants and be willing to assist if needed, but the two sides would decide how to proceed.
    “This is a new phase in diplomacy for peace in Afghanistan.    Now we are entering a process that is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led,” he said, adding they the talks would hopefully bring about a roadmap to end the war.    “These negotiations are an important achievement, but there are… significant challenges on the way to reaching an agreement,” he added.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Dan Grebler)

9/11/2020 North Korea’s Kim Inspects Reconstruction In Flood-Hit Area – State Media KCNA
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un inspects a flood-hit site in Taechong-ri, Unpha County, North Hwanghae Province,
North Korea in this image released September 11, 2020 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. KCNA via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected reconstruction work in a flood-hit area, state media KCNA reported on Saturday, following a series of typhoons and the wettest monsoon that battered several parts of the country.
    Kim said the North Korean economy “has faced trouble and distress at the great damage caused by the recent series of heavy rain and typhoons,” according to KCNA. Kim expressed satisfaction on the progress of the reconstruction in Taechong-ri, a village in North Hwanghae province, the report said.
    After surveying typhoon damage earlier this week in his impoverished country, Kim told Workers’ Party loyalists they would have to rethink plans for an economy already hobbled by sanctions and more recently restrictions designed to contain the novel coronavirus.
(Reporting by Joori Roh; editing by Grant McCool)

9/12/2020 Afghan Peace Talks Open In Doha, 19 Years After 9/11 Triggered War
FILE PHOTO: Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, and Zalmay Khalilzad,
U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, shake hands after signing an agreement at a ceremony between
members of Afghanistan's Taliban and the U.S. in Doha, Qatar February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari
    DOHA (Reuters) – Afghan government representatives and Taliban insurgents gathered on Saturday for historic peace talks aimed at ending two decades of war that has killed tens of thousands of combatants and civilians.
    “The choice of your political system is yours to make,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the two sides at the opening ceremony for the talks in the Qatari capital Doha.
    The talks, which are scheduled to commence on Sunday, will require hard work and sacrifice, but through them an endurable peace is possible, Pompeo said of the 19-year war, which has vexed three U.S. presidents.
    The head of Afghanistan’s peace council, Abdullah Abdullah, said that if the two sides join hands “and honestly work for peace, the current ongoing misery in the country will end.”
    Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, foreign minister of host Qatar, said the long-warring parties “must make the decisive decision in line with the current challenges and rise above all form of division… by reaching an agreement on the basis of no victor and no vanquished."
    Officials, diplomats and analysts say that although getting both sides to the negotiating table was an achievement, this does not mean the path to peace will be easy.
    “The negotiations will have to tackle a range of profound questions about the kind of country Afghans want,” Deborah Lyons, the United Nations special representative for Afghanistan, told the U.N Security Council this month.
    The opening ceremony comes one day after the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States that triggered its military involvement in Afghanistan.
    U.S. forces intervened in Afghanistan on the orders of President George W. Bush a month after the attacks to hunt down their mastermind, Osama bin Laden, a Saudi who had been given sanctuary by the country’s radical Islamist Taliban rulers.    U.S. forces initially offered mainly air support to the Taliban’s local enemies.
    Although the Taliban regime was quickly toppled, they regrouped and have since waged an insurgency that has sucked in Afghanistan’s neighbours and troops from dozens of countries, including NATO forces.
    Negotiations to broker a comprehensive peace deal were envisaged in a troop withdrawal pact signed between the United States and the Taliban in February.    After months of delay, a dispute over the Taliban’s demand for the release of 5,000 prisoners was resolved this week.
    Ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, President Donald Trump is looking to show progress in his pledge to end U.S. involvement and pull out most of the foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.
    The United States has reduced its troop levels and by November is expected to have fewer than 5,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, down from about 13,000 when the U.S.-Taliban deal was signed.    Since 2001, more than 2,300 U.S. troops and about 450 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.
    A European diplomat in Kabul said that a ceasefire – which the Taliban have so far rejected – should top the talks’ agenda.
    “The Taliban leaders will have to stop fighters from attacking Afghan forces and civilians, violence continues to degrade the atmosphere and potentially derail negotiations,” the diplomat said.
    How to include the Taliban, who reject the legitimacy of the Western-backed Afghan government, in any governing arrangement and how to safeguard the rights of women and minorities who suffered under Taliban rule are big challenges, experts said.
    Nevertheless many diplomats, victims of violence and members of civil society say negotiations are the only realistic way to bring an end to a conflict that has killed more than 100,000 civilians and hampered Afghanistan’s development, leaving millions in poverty.
Solutions will not be found on the battlefield, we know this,” Lyons said.
(Reporting by Kabul, Islamabad and Dubai bureaux; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Angus MacSwan and William Mallard)

9/12/2020 China’s State Media Condemn Raids On Chinese Journalists In Australia
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a news conference in Beijing, China September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s state media condemned raids on the homes of Chinese journalists working in Australia, as relations between the two major trading partners become increasingly strained.
    China News Service said on Saturday that the raids “grossly violated the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese media reporters stationed in Australia, and caused serious damage to the physical and mental health of journalists and their families.”
    That followed similar comments by Xinhua news agency, which said late on Friday that the actions taken by Australian authorities were “utterly appalling” and damaged relations between the two countries.
    China’s state-backed tabloid Global Times reported earlier this week that Australian authorities raided the homes of four Chinese journalists residing in the country in June.
    “This gross, imperious and unreasonable act was utterly appalling.    It fully exposes the Cold-War mentality and political prejudice of some Australian departments and officials,” a Xinhua spokesperson said, according to the agency.
    “What they have done not only seriously harms the reputation and image of Chinese media, but also seriously interferes with the normal people-to-people exchanges between China and Australia,” added the spokesperson, who was not identified.
    Australia’s trade minister on Friday responded to the reports, saying that security agencies had acted in accordance with the law.
    Relations between the two countries have become increasingly fraught over a host of issues ranging from Australian accusations of Chinese meddling in domestic affairs to trade disputes and calls by Canberra for an international enquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus.
    News of the raids coincided with the exit of two Australian journalists from China.
    The pair returned home with the help of consular officials after China’s state security visited their residences in Beijing and Shanghai and questioned them.
    Another Australian citizen, Chinese television anchor Cheng Lei, was detained by Chinese authorities in August.
(Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Kim Coghill)

9/12/2020 India Reports Record Daily Jump In COVID Cases For Second Straight Day
FILE PHOTO: A health worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a swab sample from a woman during a rapid antigen
testing campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, September 7, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India reported a record daily jump in coronavirus cases for a second consecutive day, logging 97,570 new infections on Saturday, data from the federal health ministry showed.
    With total cases of more than 4.65 million, India is the world’s second worst affected country, trailing only the United States, which has more than 6.4 million cases.
    But the growth in infections in India is faster than anywhere else in the world, as cases surge through urban and rural areas.
    The western state of Maharashtra has been particularly hard-hit, with total confirmed cases breaching the 1 million mark late on Friday, making it the first state or province anywhere in the world to cross that mark.
    If the state, which is India’s richest, were a country, it would rival Russia for the fourth highest number of coronavirus cases globally.
    Government officials and experts said the unabated rise in cases in Maharashtra and other parts of the country were likely a result of economic activity re-starting, local festivals and lockdown fatigue.
    “I am so disappointed with the pandemic situation in India,” Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, who has been tracking India’s COVID situation closely, said on Twitter.
    “It is getting worse and worse each week but a large part of the nation seems to have made the choice to ignore this crisis,” she said.
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

9/12/2020 Japan’s Suga Seeks Solid Communications With Asian Neighbors
FILE PHOTO: Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga waves after a debate for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's
leadership election at the party's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 9, 2020. Kimimasa Mayama/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, widely expected to succeed Shinzo Abe as prime minister, said on Saturday he wanted to promote diplomacy that enables solid communications with Asian neighbors, including China and South Korea.
    Suga made the comment at a televised debate with rival candidates for a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership election on Monday to replace Abe as party chief. The winner is virtually assured to become prime minister because of the LDP’s parliamentary majority.
    Abe said last month he would resign due to ill health.
(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by William Mallard)

9/12/2020 Secy. Of State Mike Pompeo Oversees Afghan, Taliban Peace Talks by OAN Newsroom
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks at the opening session of the peace talks between the Afghan
government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/ Hussein Sayed)
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Taliban leaders during the beginning of intra-Afghan peace talks this week.    On Saturday, he participated in a meeting in Doha, Qatar alongside officials from Afghanistan and the Taliban.
    Pompeo has urged both sides to “seize the opportunity” of peace amid nearly two decades of conflict, during which more than 43,000 civilians were killed.
    He added the U.S. will be there to support the negotiations.
    “We hope this chapter is one of reconciliation and progress, not another chronicle of tears and bloodshed,” stated Pompeo.    “We urge you to make decisions that move away from the violence and the corruption towards peace, development and prosperity.”
    The face-to-face negotiations between Afghanistan and the Taliban are set to begin on Monday.

9/13/2020 Continuity And Reforms: Key Policies Of Japan PM Hopeful Suga by Kiyoshi Takenaka
FILE PHOTO: Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership candidate and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga
attends a debate for the LDP leadership election in Tokyo, Japan September 12, 2020. Charly Triballeau/Pool via REUTERS
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga looks set to become prime minister this week, after garnering the backing of most of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) factions to win a party leadership election slated for Monday.
    Incumbent premier Shinzo Abe announced last month he was resigning because of poor health.    The winner of the party election is virtually assured of becoming prime minister because of the LDP’s parliamentary majority.
    Here is where Suga stands on key policies.
ECONOMY
    A longtime lieutenant of Abe, Suga aims to continue the incumbent’s hyper-easy monetary policy, stepped-up government spending and structural reforms, dubbed “Abenomics.”
    Suga also plans to maintain Abe’s policy of prioritising economic growth over efforts to fix the country’s tattered finances.
    He said on Sunday there was no limit to the amount of bonds the government can issue to support an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic, and indicated he could look to a third extra budget to fight the economic downturn.
    “Only when we have economic growth can we push through fiscal reform,” Suga said.
    Suga has voiced his readiness to have the central bank take additional easing steps to protect jobs.
    He opposes lowering the 10% sales tax rate.    Some lawmakers have proposed cutting the tax to reduce the burden of the pandemic on households.
    A son of a farmer from northern Japan, Suga counts the revitalisation of the regional economy as one of his key priorities.
REFORMS
    As a strong proponent of reforms, Suga favours greater consolidation of regional banks and has also reiterated his intention to ask mobile phone carriers to lower fees, which he has advocated during Abe’s tenure.
    He aims to form an agency to promote the government’s digital strategies under one roof and said in a recent newspaper interview that he will look into a possible overhaul of the health ministry.
    “On becoming the LDP president, I would break down the vertically segmented administrative system, get rid of vested interests … and do my best to push ahead with regulatory reforms,” Suga said last week.
    He urges companies to set hiring targets to help women’s advancement in society, and proposes insurance coverage for fertility treatments.
    Suga said on Sunday he would like to appoint reform-minded lawmakers to cabinet posts if he were to become prime minister.
DIPLOMACY, SECURITY
    Suga regards Japan’s alliance with the United States as the mainstay of Tokyo’s diplomacy and security, and seeks stable ties with neighbouring countries including China.
    Suga has said he is willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with no preconditions to resolve the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago.
    He is for revising the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution, a much cherished goal of Abe that ultimately eluded the outgoing prime minister.
    Asked about his position on Japan possibly acquiring the capability to strike enemy targets last week, he said he would first observe ruling party debate, without specifying where he stands on the issue.
    Suga on Saturday defended his experience in diplomacy, an area where experts say his resume is rather thin, by saying he has been involved in all the major foreign policy decisions under Abe.
CORONAVIRUS AND BEYOND
    Suga aims to boost coronavirus testing capacity and secure enough vaccine for Japan’s entire population by the middle of next year.
    He is a strong promoter of tourism as a way to drive local economies and signalled in a recent interview with Reuters the importance of re-opening the economy and also ensuring that the pandemic is contained.
    In the interview he also stressed that Japan would do “whatever it takes” to ensure it could host the Olympics next year.    The event was originally planned for this summer but postponed for a year due to the pandemic.
    He has said preventing the spread of the coronavirus will take priority in any decision on holding a snap election.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Kim Coghill)

9/13/2020 South Korea Eases Social Distancing For Two Weeks Ahead Of Major Holiday by Sangmi Cha
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea on Sunday eased its tough social distancing policy for the next two weeks in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, with new daily novel coronavirus cases hovering stubbornly within triple digits.
    The government has lifted a ban on onsite dining after 9 p.m. though still requires restaurants and cafes to restrict seating and record patrons’ names and contact details.
    While leisure facilities such as gyms and internet cafes are also allowed to reopen, under so-called phase two restrictions, indoor gatherings are limited to 50 people and outdoor gatherings to 100, while spectators are banned from sporting events.
    Health authorities said the easing would contribute toward a reopening of the economy, before returning to tougher guidelines for two weeks again from Sept. 28 during the Chuseok holiday.
    “After a comprehensive review of the recent situation and expert opinion, the government intends to adjust social distancing to phase two in the Seoul area for two weeks,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a televised meeting of government officials.
    Infection numbers fell steadily to the low 100s after the government imposed unprecedented social distancing curbs in late August, but surged last week as small clusters emerged.
    “The number of daily infections is still not dropping to double-digits and it isn’t yet a situation where measures can be significantly relaxed, as one out of four people’s path of transmission is untraceable,” Chung said.
    The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 121 new cases of novel coronavirus infection as of midnight on Saturday, bringing total infections to 22,176, with 358 deaths.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

9/13/2020 Australia Defends Intelligence Raids As Spat With China Escalates by Lidia Kelly
FILE PHOTO: Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton inspects St. Sebastian's Church where two Australian citizens
died in the Easter Sunday bombing, during his visit in Negombo, Sri Lanka June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Sunday defended the government’s right to intelligence raids to prevent foreign interference, after China condemned searches on the homes of its journalists working in Australia.
    Dutton declined to directly confirm that the Chinese journalists were questioned by Australia’s intelligence agency in June, saying an investigation was still underway, but said there was some “activity” by the country’s intelligence agency.
    “Where (the Australian Security Intelligence Organization) has sufficient grounds for the execution of a search warrant, or for activities otherwise, then they’ll undertake that activity,” Dutton said on the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) television.
    “If people are masquerading as journalists or business leaders or whoever they might be, and there’s evidence that they are acting in a contrary nature to Australian law, then …. (the) agencies will act.”
    The raids were revealed by China’s foreign ministry last week in the wake of two Australian journalists departing China after questioning by Chinese police.    Australia’s trade minister said on Friday the agencies acted on evidence related to a foreign interference investigation.
    On Saturday, China’s state media condemned the raids.
    Relations between Australia and its top trading partner China have been deteriorating gradually over the recent years and have soured further this year after Canberra called for an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, angering Beijing.
    China has imposed trade restrictions on products including barley and wine, prompting Australia to tighten national security tests for foreign investment.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Kim Coghill)

9/13/2020 Afghan Forces, Taliban Continue To Clash Even As Peace Talks Start by Abdul Qadir Sediqi
A general view shows talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha,
Qatar September 12, 2020. Picture taken with a fish-eye lens. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari
    KABUL (Reuters) – Taliban and Afghan government forces clashed across Afghanistan hours after the start of long-awaited peace talks in Doha on Saturday, officials said, underscoring the uphill challenge of settling a 19-year insurgency.
    Talks between the two sides were to begin shortly after a U.S.-Taliban agreement in February, but began only over the weekend after months of delays, caused in part by continuing Taliban offensives in the war-torn country.
    “With the start of intra-Afghan talks we were expecting the Taliban to reduce the number of their attacks, but unfortunately their attacks are still going in high numbers,” Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the Afghan defence ministry, said.
    Representatives from a number of countries who spoke at the inauguration of the peace talks called on the Taliban to announce an immediate ceasefire before negotiators sat down to find a way to end decades of war in Afghanistan.
    The Taliban did not say anything about a possible ceasefire at the ceremony.
    Achieving a significant reduction in violence and how to get to a permanent ceasefire would be among the first issues the sides would discuss when they meet on Sunday, the head of Afghanistan’s peace council, Abdullah Abdullah, told Reuters on Saturday.
    No meeting between the two has been reported by either side in Doha on Sunday, but Qatar’s state news agency reported teams led by Taliban’s political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Abdullah had met the Qatari Emir.
    Aman said that, on Friday, the eve of the inauguration of the talks, the Taliban had carried out 18 attacks against government forces and installations across the country, inflicting heavy casualties.
    “We don’t have exact information about Taliban attacks on Saturday, but I can say the number of attacks has increased instead of decreased.”
    Taliban attacks on Saturday night were confirmed by officials in the provinces of Kapsia and Kunduz.
    Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the insurgent group attacked a convoy of Afghan forces that had arrived to launch an operation along a key highway in Kunduz.
    He added that security forces carried out air and artillery strikes on Saturday night in the provinces of Baghlan and Jowzjan.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul, Writing by Gibran Peshimam; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

9/13/2020 Envoy Khalilzad Says Afghan, Taliban Peace Talks Going Well by OAN Newsroom
Abdullah Abdullah, center, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, attends the opening session of
the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/ Hussein Sayed)
    U.S. Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has confirmed peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan appointed government officials in Qatar are going well. His statement came Saturday after the first day of peace talks between the two groups.
    While the opening meeting was largely ceremonial, real negotiations are now being held behind closed doors.    Political analysts believe the path to peace will be difficult because both sides have to figure out what policies are best for the Afghan people.
    The two groups have been discussing the possibility of lasting ceasefires, women’s rights and the disarming of the Taliban.     “I have heard positive things about the meeting between the two sides without any foreigners being there,” said Khalilzad.    “I have talked to both sides, they have been positive of their account of their meeting.”
Taliban delegation attend the opening session of the peace talks between the Afghan government
and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed)
    The head of Afghanistan’s peace council was also optimistic about the initial peace talks with Taliban leaders.    Abdullah Abdullah reiterated both sides need to be able to compromise if they want to move forward peacefully.
    “As one of the top most issues in the minds of the people, reduction in violence in a significant way, in a way that is palpable,” explained Abdullah.    “Also getting to a humanitarian ceasefire, hopefully a permanent ceasefire.”
    This came after President Trump brought the two sides together for bilateral discussions.    The President has been working to end the war in Afghanistan and improve Middle East relations.

9/14/2020 Japan’s Suga Wins Party Leadership Race, Headed For Premiership by Linda Sieg and Elaine Lies
FILE PHOTO: Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga waves after a debate organized by the Liberal Democratic Party,
Youth Bureau and Women's Bureau at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo, Japan September 9, 2020. Philip Fong/Pool via REUTERS/
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a loyal aide to outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, won a landslide victory in a ruling party leadership election on Monday, paving the way for him to replace Abe this week.
    Suga, 71, who has said he will pursue Abe’s key economic and foreign policies, won 377 votes out of 534 votes cast, and 535 possible votes, in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) election by the party’s members of parliament and representatives of its 47 local chapters.
    Rival Shigeru Ishiba, a former defence minister, won 68 votes and ex-foreign minister Fumio Kishida got 89.
    Suga is virtually certain to be elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday because of the LDP’s majority in the lower house.    He will serve out Abe’s term as party leader through September 2021.
    Suga thanked Abe and vowed to push ahead with reforms.    Abe, Japan’s longest-serving premier, said last month that he would resign because of ill health, ending nearly eight years in office.
    “I was born as the oldest son of a farmer in Akita,” Suga said.    “Without any knowledge or blood ties, I launched into the world of politics, starting from zero – and have been able to become leader of the LDP, with all its traditions and history.”
    “I will devote all of myself to work for Japan and its citizens,” he added.
    Suga has said he would continue Abe’s signature “Abenomics” strategy of hyper-easy monetary policy, government spending and reforms while juggling the problems of COVID-19 and a slumping economy, and confronting longer-term issues such as Japan’s ageing population and low birth rate.
    Japanese manufacturers remained pessimistic for a 14th straight month in September, a Reuters poll showed, underlining the huge challenge the next leader faces.
    Suga, whose resume is thin on diplomatic experience, faces geopolitical challenges such as building ties with the winner of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election and balancing concern over China’s maritime aggressiveness with bilateral economic interdependence.
    Speculation is simmering that Suga will call a snap election for parliament’s lower house as soon as next month to boost his chances of winning a full three-year term as LDP chief next year.    A vote for the lower chamber must be held by late October 2021.
    Suga, the son of a strawberry farmer from northern Japan who got his start in politics as a local assemblyman, has since 2012 held the key post of chief cabinet secretary, acting as Abe’s top government spokesman, coordinating policies and keeping bureaucrats in line.
    He has the image as more of a behind-the-scenes operator than a frontline leader but rose in opinion polls after he announced his candidacy to succeed Abe.    He won support from most LDP factions, outpacing his rivals.
    Suga also won robust backing from LDP local chapters, where Ishiba had originally thought to be strong.    According to a tally by public broadcaster NHK, he took 89 votes from the chapter representatives versus 42 for Ishiba and 10 for Kishida.
    Suga was scheduled to hold a news conference at 6 p.m. (0900 GMT).
(Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Chris Gallagher and Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by William Mallard, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle)

9/14/2020 Hong Kong Says Will Not Interfere With Chinese Law Enforcement Arrest Of 12 Residents At Sea
Family members of twelve Hong Kong activists, detained as they reportedly sailed to Taiwan for political asylum,
hold a news conference to seek help in Hong Kong, China September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s government stood fast in its refusal to interfere with the arrest of 12 residents seeking to flee to Taiwan by sea, despite pleas from families for assistance, saying the crime falls under mainland Chinese jurisdiction.
    In a statement late on Sunday cited by public broadcaster RTHK, Hong Kong authorities said they had received requests for help from the families of the residents who were detained last month by mainland law enforcement for illegal entry into mainland China after trying to flee to Taiwan.
    China on Sunday labelled the group as ‘separatists’.
    “The relevant crime falls within the jurisdiction of the mainland and the special administrative region government respects and will not interfere with law enforcement actions,” RTHK quoted Hong Kong’s government as saying.
    The group was suspected of committing “various criminal offences” in Hong Kong, it added, as it urged the families to make use of a free legal consultation service being provided.
    The comments came a day after relatives of the detainees held a news conference in Hong Kong, demanding the urgent return of the 12 who were intercepted by the Guangdong coast guard on Aug. 23 on a boat bound for Taiwan.
    Donning masks and hats to shield their identities, families plead for those arrested to be allowed to consult lawyers appointed by them and not the Chinese government, and to be allowed to call relatives in Hong Kong.
    A boy aged 16 is the youngest being held and several need medication, relatives said.
    The arrests came about two months after Beijing imposed a security law on the Asian financial hub following months of pro-democracy demonstrations.
    Critics have said the law has pushed the former British colony onto a more authoritarian path.
    China’s foreign ministry said on Sunday that the arrested people were separatists, in response to its U.S. counterpart’s characterisation of the arrest as a deterioration of human rights.
    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus had tweeted the arrests were “another example of the deterioration of human rights in Hong Kong,” and called on mainland authorities to “ensure due process.”
(This story was refiled to clarify government statement was reported by public broadcaster RTHK.)
(Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Michael Perry)

9/14/2020 U.S. Asks World Court To Dismiss Iran Sanctions Case by Stephanie van den Berg
FILE PHOTO: A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and
representatives of the U.S., Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear
talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
    THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Lawyers for the United States on Monday asked judges at the United Nations’ highest court to dismiss a case brought by Iran seeking to lift sanctions.
    Lawyer Marik String said Iran had wrongly introduced a subject uncovered by a 1955 bilateral pact, the Treaty of Amity, which Tehran cites as the basis for going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court.
    It was “an inescapable reality,” he added, that the real aim of Iran’s legal suit is to restore a 2015 nuclear pact opposed by the administration of President Donald Trump.
    “The measures Iran challenges remain critical to the United States’ efforts to address national security threats posed by Iran including the current threat posed by its nuclear programme,” String added.
    Washington imposed the measures when it abandoned the 2015 pact aimed at stopping Tehran developing nuclear weapons.
    Hearings this week in The Hague will only deal with the preliminary matter of whether the court has jurisdiction.
    The Iranian side is to argue its case on Wednesday and a decision is expected by the end of the year.
    In an earlier case involving frozen assets, the World Court ruled in 2019 that the friendship treaty could provide a legal basis for its involvement in an Iranian-U.S. dispute.
    In October 2018, the court ordered the United States to ensure that sanctions against Iran did not affect humanitarian aid or civil aviation safety.
    String said Washington was abiding by earlier orders.
    The ICJ’s rulings are binding, but it has no power to enforce them, and the United States and Iran are both among a handful of countries to have ignored its decisions.
    The Amity Treaty was signed before Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and the sharp deterioration in ties with Washington.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Anthony Deutsch, Ed Osmond and Andrew Cawthorne)

9/14/2020 U.S. Ambassador To China Branstad Leaving Post To Help Trump Campaign: U.S. Official by Matt Spetalnick and Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad speaks at an event to celebrate the re-introduction
of American beef imports to China in Beijing, China June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbein/Pool
    WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad will step down to work on President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, a U.S. official familiar with the matter said on Monday, departing Beijing at a time when the ties between the world’s top two economies are at their worst in decades.
    Branstad, previously the longest-serving governor of Iowa, a state in the U.S. Farm Belt which helped Trump get elected in 2016, will leave.
    “I thank Ambassador Terry Branstad for his more than three years of service to the American people as U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted. “Ambassador Branstad has contributed to rebalancing U.S.-China relations so that it is results-oriented, reciprocal, and fair.”
    On Saturday, Trump hinted that Branstad might be joining the campaign.    In a video posted on Twitter by Iowa senator Joni Ernst, Trump said Branstad would be coming home.
    Branstad’s departure leaves the U.S. mission in Beijing without a confirmed ambassador at a time when the two countries are at loggerheads over everything from China’s new security law in Hong Kong to handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic and over territorial matters in the South China Sea.
    That gap could last for months even if Trump is re-elected on Nov. 3.    The Senate is only scheduled to be in session for about two more weeks before Election Day.
    The Chinese foreign ministry has in the past described Branstad, who was instrumental in a so-called Phase One trade deal with China, as an “old friend of the Chinese people.”    He first forged ties with President Xi Jinping several decades ago when Xi visited Iowa.
    Last week, the United States and China traded attacks about who best understands press freedom after the official People’s Daily refused to publish an article by Branstad.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Patricia Zengerle, Rama Venkat and Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Grant McCool)

9/14/2020 India Says China Laying Cables To Bolster Communications At Border Flashpoint by Devjyot Ghoshal
An Indian fighter plane flies over a mountain range in Leh, in the Ladakh region, September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    LEH, India (Reuters) – Two Indian officials said Chinese troops were laying a network of optical fibre cables at a western Himalayan flashpoint with India, suggesting they were digging in for the long haul despite high-level talks aimed at resolving a standoff there.
    Such cables, which would provide forward troops with secure lines of communication to bases in the rear, have recently been spotted to the south of Pangong Tso lake in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, a senior government official said.
    China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to questions on the matter from Reuters, while defence officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
    Thousands of Indian and Chinese troops backed by tanks and aircraft are locked in an uneasy stalemate along a 70 km-long front to the south of the lake.    Each country has accused the other of escalating the standoff.
    A third Indian official said on Monday that there had been no significant withdrawals or reinforcements on either side since the foreign ministers of the two countries met last week.
    “It is as tense as earlier,” he said.
    Above Leh, Ladakh’s main city, Indian fighter planes flew throughout the morning, their engines booming and echoing across the valley surrounded by brown, barren mountains.
    “Our biggest worry is that they have laid optical fibre cables for high-speed communications,” the first official said, referring to the lake’s southern bank, where Indian and Chinese troops are only a few hundred metres apart at some points.
    “They have been laying optical fibre cables on the southern bank at breakneck speed,” he said.
    Indian intelligence agencies noted similar cables to the north of the Pangong Tso lake around a month ago, the second government official said.
    The first Indian government official said the authorities were alerted to such activity after satellite imagery showed unusual lines in the sand of the high-altitude deserts to the south of Pangong Tso.
    These lines were judged by Indian experts – and corroborated by foreign intelligence agencies – to be communication cables laid in trenches, he said, including near the Spanggur gap, among hilltops where soldiers fired in the air recently for the first time in decades.
    Indian officials say a build-up in border infrastructure on their side is also likely to have played a part in the months-long confrontation.
    The Chinese have complained about India building roads and air strips in and around their disputed border, and Beijing says this triggered tensions along the border.
    A former Indian military intelligence official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said optical fibre cables offered communications security as well as the ability to send data such as pictures and documents.
    “If you speak on radio, it can get caught.    Communications on optical fibre cables is secure,” he said.
    The Indian military still depends on radio communications, the first official said, although he said it was encrypted.
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

9/15/2020 Japan Ruling Party Head Suga Preparing Cabinet, Continuity In Foreground
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga poses for a picture following his press conference at LDP
(Liberal Democratic Party) headquarters, in Tokyo, Japan September 14, 2020. Nicolas Datiche/Pool via REUTERS
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese ruling party head Yoshihide Suga, in line to become the next prime minister, appeared set on Tuesday to continue his predecessor’s policies by keeping key cabinet ministers and party officials in their posts, as he had promised.
    Suga, long a loyal aide and chief cabinet secretary under outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on Monday won a landslide victory to take over the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).    He pledged to carry on many of Abe’s programmes, including his signature “Abenomics” economic strategy.
    He faces a vast array of challenges, including tackling COVID-19 while reviving a battered economy and dealing with a rapidly aging society in which nearly a third of the population is older than 65.
    Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi are likely to stay in their positions, according to multiple media reports, as is LDP secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai.    Yasutoshi Nishimura is likely to be reappointed as economy minister.
    Suga may name Health Minister Katsunobu Kato, who has become well known to the public as the face of Japan’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus, as chief cabinet secretary, Nippon TV said.    Kato is close to Suga, under whom he served as deputy chief cabinet secretary.
    “Many different elements are needed,” Suga said on Monday, when asked about who should replace him.    “One is their fit with the prime minister, but thinking about it overall, they also need to have broad strengths, that will be the most calming.”
    Suga is virtually certain to be elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday because of the LDP’s lower-house majority.    He will serve out Abe’s term as party leader through September 2021.
    Known more for his work behind the scenes, Suga emerged as favourite to replace Abe, Japan’s longest-serving premier, after Abe said last month he would resign because of ill health, ending nearly eight years in office.
    There is widespread speculation that Suga could take advantage of strong support ratings to dissolve the lower house of parliament and call snap elections to earn a full three-year term as LDP head, but he appears wary.
    “What’s important now is to contain the pandemic while also reviving the economy.    I don’t think we can immediately (dissolve the lower house) just because the pandemic is contained,” Suga said.    “That’s a decision that must be made looking comprehensively at various factors.”
(Reporting by Elaine Lies, Antoni Slodkowski, Chang-ran Kim and Chris Gallagher. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

9/15/2020 After Sweeping Party Poll, Japan’s Suga Faces Tricky Call On Snap Election by Linda Sieg
FILE PHOTO: Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga poses for a picture following his press conference at
LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) headquarters, in Tokyo, Japan September 14, 2020. Nicolas Datiche/Pool via REUTERS
    TOKYO (Reuters) – As Japan’s next prime minister, Yoshihide Suga will face an early, and difficult, leadership decision: whether to call an general election before his honeymoon with voters fades or wait and risk seeing ratings slide.
    The decision will affect Suga’s chances of holding office beyond the remainder of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s term, which expires next year.    A successful early election may also help him gain momentum to push his agenda, including deregulation and smashing bureaucratic silos. [L4N2GB2NN]
    Suga won a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership poll on Monday, and the party’s parliamentary majority means he is virtually guaranteed to replace Abe, who is resigning after nearly eight years as prime minister because of illness.
    Suga acknowledged on Monday that the question of timing for a lower house election was a tough call amid worries about the coronavirus and a slumping economy.    A poll for the powerful chamber must be held by late October 2021.
    A dozen years ago, Taro Aso was expected to call a snap election soon after taking office as premier, while his ratings were relatively high.    He waited, his popularity declined and when he called an election in 2009, the LDP lost power for three years.
    The memory of that trauma lingers, although the LDP’s opposition is far weaker now.
    “There’s only a year left, so the timing of when to dissolve the lower house is a vexing problem,” Suga told a news conference after a landslide victory in the party vote.
    Speculation has swirled that Suga would call a lower house poll for as early as next month.    Aso, now finance minister, said on Tuesday an early election should be considered because the Olympic Games will be held in Japan next year.
    On Monday, Suga sounded cautious, saying his priorities were to end the coronavirus outbreak and revive the economy.
COALITION PARTNER WARY
    A robust LDP election performance would boost Suga’s chances of winning a full three-year term next year.
    Long seen as more of a backroom operator than a top leader, Suga’s ratings have jumped since he began running for the LDP post.    Some party insiders fear that rise could be short-lived.
    “Mr. Suga is good at making deals, but he’s not especially talented at answering questions in parliament,” said one LDP senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
    Scenarios floated for an early election include Oct. 25, Nov. 1 and Dec. 6, which is Suga’s birthday.
    An early poll would also diminish chances the LDP would lose seats because the newly unified opposition would have less time to prepare.
    “Objectively, it is certain that sooner is better for the LDP,” said independent political analyst Atsuo Ito.
    Abe’s success in leading the LDP to big wins in six national elections – aided by a weak opposition and low turnout – was key to his tenure as Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.    Before Abe, Japan suffered a succession of short-lived leaders.
    The LDP’s junior coalition partner, the Komeito party, is against an early election, and opinion polls show the public is more focused on steps to fight COVID-19 and reboot the economy than going to the polls.
    Voter surveys measuring Suga’s popularity after he takes office on Wednesday could guide the decision.
    “It’s true calls in the LDP for an early election are growing but Suga is cautious,” said Tomoaki Iwai, a Nihon University professor.    “We have to see the opinion polls.”
(Additional reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

9/15/2020 Hong Kong Leader Says 12 Arrested By China At Sea Not ‘Democratic Activists Being Oppressed’ by Clare Jim
Hong Kong's Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung, Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Financial
Secretary Paul Chan hold a news conference in Hong Kong, China September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – The 12 Hong Kong people arrested at sea by mainland authorities were not “democratic activists being oppressed,” the city’s leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday, with 10 of them on bail for offences in the Asian financial hub.
    The 12 were arrested on Aug. 23 for illegal entry into mainland China after setting off from Hong Kong in a boat bound for self-ruled Taiwan, amid a crackdown by Beijing on pro-democracy activists in the former British colony.
    Hong Kong’s Security Bureau said on Monday all 12 were suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong.
    Ten of them had been charged with offences such as manufacturing or possessing explosives, arson, rioting, assaulting police or possession of offensive weapons.    Those 10 had been on bail and not allowed to leave Hong Kong, it said.
    One was suspected of colluding with foreign forces under a national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in June.    The law allows for the punishment of anything China considers to be subversion, separatism, terrorism or such collusion.
    Speaking at her regular weekly news conference, Lam reiterated that the 12 will have to face justice in the mainland and that her government will provide them and their families with the “needed and feasible” assistance.
    “The reason for them leaving Hong Kong seems to be that they were running away from legal responsibility,” Lam said.     “I want to set the record straight, because certain local and overseas individuals tried to shift the attention, describing them as democratic (activists) being oppressed.”
    Lam’s comments come after relatives of some of the detainees held a news conference on Saturday to demand their urgent return and plead for them to be allowed to call home and consult lawyers appointed by the families and not the Chinese government.
    Hours before the families’ appearance, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was deeply concerned about the activists, noting they had been denied access to lawyers.
    China’s foreign ministry on Sunday labelled the group “separatists.”    Police in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, where they are being held, said on Sunday they were suspected of illegal entry, its first public notice on the matter.
    Asked about whether it was appropriate label them as “separatists” given they are yet to face trial, Lam said she saw “no particular value” in debating the issue.
(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry)

9/15/2020 Japan Foreign Minister Motegi To Retain Post In New Cabinet: Kyodo
FILE PHOTO: Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi delivers his speech at ASEAN’s
Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will retain his post in the new cabinet to be announced on Wednesday by presumptive prime minister-elect Yoshihide Suga, Kyodo news reported.
    Citing unnamed sources, Kyodo also said on Tuesday that Suga had decided to keep Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Transport Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba, and Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto, in their current posts.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

9/15/2020 Mainland China Reports Eight New COVID-19 Cases Versus 10 A Day Earlier
FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak walk across
a street at a shopping area in Beijing, China August 25, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Mainland China reported eight new COVID-19 cases on Sept. 14, down from 10 cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said in a statement on Tuesday.
    The National Health Commission said all new reported cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas.    The commission also reported nine new asymptomatic cases, down from 39 a day earlier.
    The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases now stands at 85,202.    The death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.
(Reporting by Jing Wang and David Stanway; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Tom Hogue)

9/15/2020 India Pushes Tonnes Of Supplies To Disputed China Border Ahead Of Winter by Devjyot Ghoshal
Military tankers carrying fuel move towards forward areas in the Ladakh region, September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    LEH, India (Reuters) – From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, India’s military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China.
    In recent months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said.
    The move was triggered by a border stand-off with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand combat.    Twenty Indian soldiers were killed while China suffered an undisclosed number of casualties.
Both countries are negotiating to resolve the confrontation, but neither side has backed down.    The Indian military is now set to keep troops deployed along the treacherous, high-altitude border through the winter.
    Eastern Ladakh, where the flare-up occurred, is typically manned by 20,000-30,000 soldiers.    But the deployment has more than doubled with the tensions, a military official said, declining to provide exact numbers.
    “We have mirrored the increase in Chinese troops,” the official said, adding the Indian military was well-prepared but did not want further escalation or a prolonged conflict.
    Temperatures in Ladakh can fall well below freezing, and troops are often deployed at altitudes of over 15,000 feet, where oxygen is scarce, officials said.
    Since snow blocks mountain passes into Ladakh at least four months every winter, Indian military planners have already moved more than 150,000 tonnes of materials into the region.
    “All the supplies that we need have already been pushed to wherever they are required,” said Major General Arvind Kapoor, chief of staff of the Indian army’s 14 Corps.
FERRYING TO THE FRONTLINE
    On Tuesday morning, a succession of the Indian air force’s large transport aircraft landed at a forward base in Ladakh, carrying men and materials, as fighter jets roared overhead.
    Soldiers with backpacks streamed out and were checked for COVID-19 symptoms at a transit facility, where they awaited further transport.
    The materials are stored across a network of logistics hubs.
    At a fuel, oil and lubricant depot near Leh, Ladakh’s main city, a hillside was covered with clusters of green drums.
    At storage facilities at a nearby supply depot, boxes and sacks of ration – including pistachios, instant noodles and Indian curries – stood in tall piles.    At another base near Leh, tents, heaters, winter clothing and high-altitude equipment lay stacked.
    From these depots, the materials are pushed to logistics nodes by trucks, helicopters and, in some particularly difficult parts, mules, officials said.
    “In a place like Ladakh, operations logistics is of huge importance,” said Kapoor.    “In the last 20 years, we have mastered it.”
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Richard Chang)

9/16/2020 Japan’s Suga Formally Voted In As PM, Readies ‘Continuity Cabinet’ by Elaine Lies and Linda Sieg
Japan's newly-elected Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga arrives at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan September 16, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Yoshihide Suga was voted prime minister by parliament’s lower house on Wednesday, becoming the country’s first new leader in nearly eight years, as he readied a “continuity cabinet” expected to keep about half of predecessor Shinzo Abe’s lineup.
    Suga, 71, Abe’s longtime right-hand man, has pledged to pursue many of Abe’s programmes, including his signature “Abenomics” economic strategy, and to forge ahead with structural reforms, including deregulation and streamlining bureaucracy.
    Abe, Japan’s longest-serving premier, resigned because of ill health after nearly eight years in office. Suga served under him in the pivotal post of chief cabinet secretary.
    Suga won 314 votes out of 462 cast by parliament’s lower house members.    The chamber takes precedence in electing a premier over the upper house, which was also expected to pick Suga because of a ruling bloc majority.
    Suga, who won a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership race by a landslide on Monday, faces a plethora of challenges, including tackling COVID-19 while reviving a battered economy and dealing with a rapidly aging society.
    With little direct diplomatic experience, Suga must also cope with an intensifying U.S.-China confrontation, build ties with the winner of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election and try to keep Japan’s own relations with Beijing on track.
    Domestic media said that roughly half of the new cabinet would be people from the Abe cabinet.    There will be only two women and the average age, including Suga, is 60.
    Among those expected to retain their jobs are key players such as Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, along with Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, the youngest at 39.
    “It’s a ‘Continuity with a capital C’ cabinet,” said Jesper Koll, senior adviser to asset manager WisdomTree Investments.
    Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, is likely to be tapped for the defence portfolio, while outgoing Defence Minister Taro Kono will take charge of administrative reform, a post he has held before.
    Yasutoshi Nishimura, Abe’s point man on COVID-19 response, will remain economy minister, while Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama, the son of a politician to whom Suga looked up as his mentor, will also retain his post, media reported.
NEW SPOKESMAN, STRUCTURAL REFORM
    Katsunobu Kato, outgoing health minister and a close Suga ally, is expected to become chief cabinet secretary.
    “Suga will continue Abe’s economic policies and there will be no short-term impact on markets,” said Kensuke Niihara, chief investment officer of State Street Global Advisors Japan.
    “In the longer term, because foreign investors’ interest in Japanese stocks has been low, if he presses ahead with structural reforms and deregulations, that is a theme investors like and would be a positive surprise,” Niihara added.
    Suga has criticised Japan’s top three mobile phone carriers, NTT Docomo Inc, KDDI Corp and SoftBank Corp, saying they should return more money to the public and face more competition.
    He has also said Japan may eventually need to raise its 10% sales tax to pay for social security, but not for the next decade.
    Clues as to whether and how Suga will push ahead with reforms could come from the lineup of government advisory panels such as the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, Koll said.
    “The ambition of Mr. Suga to speed up and reinvigorate the process (of reform) is absolutely clear, but the next layer of personnel will be interesting,” he said.
    Speculation has simmered that Suga might call a snap election for parliament’s lower house to take advantage of any rise in public support, although he has said handling the pandemic and reviving the economy were his top priorities.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies and Linda Sieg; Additional reporting by Antoni Slodkowski and Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

9/16/2020 Some Indian Hospitals Scramble For Oxygen As Coronavirus Cases Top 5 Million by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Rajendra Jadhav
A medical worker takes care of a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the
Yatharth Hospital in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, September 15, 2020. Picture taken September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s coronavirus infections surged past 5 million on Wednesday, piling pressure on hospitals grappling with unreliable supplies of oxygen that they need to treat tens of thousands of critical patients.
    In the big states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, that are also some of the worst-affected by the virus, demand for oxygen has more than tripled, doctors and government officials said, prompting urgent calls for help.
    “Desperate patients have been calling me through the night but I don’t know when I will get stock,” Rishikhesh Patil, an oxygen supplier in the western city of Nashik, told Reuters.
    The health ministry reported 90,123 new infections on Wednesday, taking the total caseload to 5.02 million.
    The death toll from COVID-19 is now at 82,066, the ministry said, with 1,290 fatalities recorded in the previous 24 hours.
    India has the world’s fastest growing novel coronavirus epidemic and added its last million infections in just 12 days.    It is only the second country in the world to have more than 5 million cases, after the United States.
    At least 6% of India’s nearly 1 million active cases need oxygen support, health ministry official Rajesh Bhushan told reporters.
    Supplies were adequate but state governments should monitor usage and flag shortages, he said.
    “The problem happens when at a facility level, if there is no inventory management.    Every state should ensure this,” Bhushan said.
    In the capital of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, the total requirement of oxygen cylinders stood at 5,000 cylinders compared with 1,000 cylinders in normal times, a government official said.
    The worst-affected state of Maharashtra has decided to reduce supply to neighbouring states to meet its growing demand, a state government official said.
    Vehicles carrying oxygen will get right of way and can use sirens to ensure they reach hospitals faster.
    Ravindra Khade Patil, a doctor who manages two private hospitals on the outskirts of Mumbai, spoke of the stress he faces trying to ensure he can supply his patients with oxygen.
    Two days ago, the supplier of oxygen to his hospitals did not turn up at his usual time.
    Patil made frantic calls to the supplier and then to nearby hospitals and lawmakers, knowing that if the oxygen didn’t arrive on time, it would be too late for some of his most critical patients.
    Finally, past midnight, thanks to pressure from a government official, the oxygen tanks arrived.
    “If they had arrived even a couple of hours late, we could have lost five or six patients.    Every day, we are worried if we will be able to meet our requirements, if the oxygen will arrive or not,” Patil told Reuters.
Graphic – COVID Cases in India, U.S. and Brazil: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/xklpynybnvg/
Graphic – Daily India coronavirus caseload by state: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/INDIA/azgvoamknvd/chart.png
Graphic – COVID-19 cases cross 5 million in India: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/INDIA/dgkplldmypb/
(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel)

9/16/2020 China Says It Hopes Japan Will Not Develop Official Ties With Taiwan
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks during a news conference in Beijing, China July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that China hopes Japan will refrain from developing official ties with Taiwan.
    Spokesman Wang Wenbin was asked at a news briefing about China’s views on Japan’s new defence minister, who has close ties with Taiwan.    He said China hoped to enhance cooperation with Japan.
(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

9/16/2020 Australian Government Lawyer Names China In Interference Investigation by Kirsty Needham
FILE PHOTO: The Australian flag flutters in front of the Great Hall of the People during a welcoming ceremony for
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (not in picture) in Beijing, China, April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia has named China in a court document as the foreign state under investigation by police in its first foreign interference investigation, though Beijing dismissed the allegation as an anti-China smear.
    Ties between Australia and its biggest trading partner have been plagued over recent years by Australian complaints of Chinese interference in its politics.    China has consistently denied the accusations.
    A document lodged in the High Court on Sept. 1 by the Australian Government Solicitor is the first official acknowledgement that the investigation into an alleged plot to influence an Australian politician centred on China.
    The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) have declined to comment on whether a raid on the offices of a New South Wales (NSW) state politician and his staffer on June 26 was related to China.
    But the court filing stated the search warrant used by police identifies the foreign principal as the “Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).”
    John Zhang, who worked for NSW Labor politician Shaoquett Moselmane, has asked the High Court to quash the search warrants used to search his home, business and Moselmane’s parliament office.
    The government’s court document, signed off by Australia’s Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue, was lodged the day after it warned Australian journalists working in China to leave for safety reasons.
    In the government’s Sept. 1 filing, the government solicitor stated there was “no doubt that the suspected offences related to the plaintiff’s dealings with the Hon Shaoquett Moselmane MLC, allegedly on behalf of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), from about 1 July 2019 to about 25 June 2020, in order to advance the interests and policy goals of the PRC
    The Chinese government has said ASIO searched four Chinese journalists in Australia in June.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily news briefing in Beijing that China never interfered in other countries.
    “Some figures in Australia are fond of smearing and attacking China to whip up anti-China sentiment,” he said.
    Australia’s foreign interference law criminalised harmful or covert conduct by foreign principals seeking to interfere in the democratic processes to support their intelligence activities or prejudice Australia’s national security, the court document said.
    Earlier on Wednesday, the Chinese consulate general in Sydney rejected an Australian Broadcasting Corp report that one of its officials was also named in the search warrants.
    “The accusations that the Consulate General and its official engaged in infiltration activities are totally baseless and nothing but vicious slanders,” the statement said.
    A police spokeswoman said the investigation was going on.
    Australia’s tense relations with China worsened this year after Australia called for an international enquiry into the source of the novel coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham, additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley in Beijing; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

9/16/2020 Myanmar Races To Build Field Hospital As Coronavirus Surge Stretches Health System by Shoon Naing and Zaw Naing Oo
    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar authorities are racing to build a field hospital in the commercial capital of Yangon to cope with a surge of coronavirus infections that doctors fear threatens to overwhelm the country’s fragile health system.
    The Southeast Asian nation reported 307 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, its highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic in March, and another 134 on Wednesday morning, taking the total to 3,636 cases and 39 deaths.
    Myanmar had gone weeks without a case of local transmission before an outbreak in mid-August in the western region of Rakhine that has spread across the country.
    Three hospitals in Yangon, the site of most of the cases and now under a second lockdown, have been repurposed to treat COVID-19 patients and the government is building a field hospital with 500 beds on a football pitch.
    “We have no more space to accommodate a huge outbreak,” Kaung Kyat Soe, the chief of the new temporary hospital, told Reuters on Tuesday, as construction workers labored on the field.
    “The situation will get worse if we can’t accept patients, that’s why we are building the shelters urgently,” he said.
    Decades of neglect by Myanmar’s formerly ruling military junta led the health system to be ranked the worst in the world by the World Health Organization in 2000, the last time it published ratings.    The health budget was around 0.3% of GDP prior to the start of democratic reforms in 2011.
    As of March, the World Bank said Myanmar had just 383 ICU beds for a population of 51 million and 249 ventilators, compared with 6,000 beds and more than 10,000 ventilators in neighboring Thailand, a country of 69 million.    More ventilators have since been donated to Myanmar.
    Some Yangon doctors said the government’s response had contributed to the shortage of hospital space and treatment options.
    Officials have asked people who want to be tested to be hospitalised before undergoing swab tests, contributing to a shortage of patient beds, said Kyaw Min Tun, who runs a fever clinic in the city.    “That is not necessary,” he said.
    In addition, medical workers suspected of having the virus have been sent to quarantine centres around the city, forcing them to shut private clinics, said Ko Ko Htwe, a doctor at a local clinic.
    A spokesman for the health ministry did not answer phone calls and messages from Reuters seeking comment.
    Yangon chief minister Phyo Min Thein said in an interview published in state media on Wednesday that he hoped to get the outbreak under control within three weeks.
    He said there were still hundreds of places in government-run quarantine centers where suspected cases and people who have had contact with positive cases are being sent.
    Some in the centres have complained of poor conditions, including patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 being forced to share rooms with those who have not tested positive.
    Pwint Thiri San, 23, told Reuters by phone that her symptoms were mild but she worried about receiving adequate care if they got worse.
    Some rooms did not have running water, she said, and she had not seen any medical workers.
    She and another patient, who asked not to be named, said a woman in the building died on Tuesday after struggling to breathe.
    They said her neighbors had had to call out to get the attention of volunteers helping run the center.
    Reuters was not able to independently confirm the account.    Poe Poe, the manager, said by phone she was not allowed to answer questions.
    “I am worried what will happen if I suffer shortness of breath here,” said Pwint Thiri San.
    “I feel depressed and vulnerable,” she said.
(Reporting by Shoon Naing and Zaw Naing Oo; writing by Poppy McPherson; editing by Richard Pullin)

9/16/2020 Mongolians Protest Visit Of China Diplomat As Language Dispute Simmers
Demonstrators protesting against China's changes to school curriculums that remove Mongolian language from core
subjects gather on Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia September 15, 2020. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj
    ULAANBAATAR (Reuters) – Demonstrators rallied in Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar on Tuesday to protest against a visit by the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, amid accusations that Beijing is suppressing native language and culture in ethnic Mongolian regions of China.
    About 100 mostly peaceful protesters gathered on Sukhbaatar Square in front of Mongolia’s Government Palace and chanted “let’s protect our native language” and “Wang Yi go away.”
    They were responding to a policy forcing elementary and secondary schools in China’s Inner Mongolia region to adhere to a national curriculum in Chinese language, politics and history.
    China said the policy was designed to promote national unity and insisted there would still be room for Mongolian language teaching in other subjects and grades.
    However, the policy has led to school boycotts and accusations by human rights groups that Beijing is trying to destroy Mongolian culture.
    On Monday, the U.S.-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center accused Chinese authorities of turning the region into a “police state.”
    It said 4,000-5,000 people had been put into police custody during three weeks of protests, while at least nine had lost their lives.
    The Mongolian government has yet to comment on the issue.
    “Our leaders need to speak up,” one protester, a shaman named Khaliun Sukhbaatar, told Reuters.    “If our government keeps silent in the name of international relations and economic stability, one by one Mongolians are being pressed out and Mongolia will cease to exist.”
    Mongolia’s economy is heavily dependent on China, and Beijing is expected to provide the country a 700 million yuan ($103.15 million) grant during Wang’s two-day visit.
    In an interview with Ulaanbaatar-based Daily National Newspaper on Monday, China’s ambassador to Mongolia Chai Wenrui said “false rumors” about the policy were provoking conflict.
    He also said China’s demand for Mongolian coal – its biggest export earner – was shrinking.    Though shipments have continued, they were piling up because there was no market for them.
    “Frankly, we are working in your interests,” he was quoted as saying.
(This story has been refiled to clarify position of Chinese diplomat in lead to government’s top diplomat)
(Reporting by Anand Tumurtogoo in Ulaanbaatar and David Stanway in Shanghai; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

9/16/2020 Exclusive: U.S. Pushes Arms Sales Surge To Taiwan, Needling China – Sources by Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerle
FILE PHOTO: U.S. military forces fire a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rocket during
the annual Philippines-US live fire amphibious landing exercise (PHIBLEX) at Crow Valley in Capas,
Tarlac province, north of Manila, Philippines October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems, including mines, cruise missiles and drones to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said, as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.
    Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which U.S. military sales to the island were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing.
    But the Trump administration has become more aggressive with China in 2020 and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, a lingering trade war and disputes about the spread of the novel coronavirus.
    At the same time Taiwan’s desire to buy weapons increased after President Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN1ZA009 in January and has made strengthening Taiwan’s defenses a top priority.
    Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue. Beijing says it is a Chinese province, and has denounced the Trump administration’s support for the island.
    Washington has been eager to create a military counterbalance to Chinese forces, building on an effort known within the Pentagon as “Fortress Taiwan,” as Beijing’s military makes increasingly aggressive moves in the region.
    Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the reported package was a “media assumption,” and that it handled weapons purchase talks and assessments in a low-key, confidential way, so could not offer public comment until there was a formal U.S. notification of any sales to Congress.
    Taiwan’s military is well-trained and well-equipped with mostly U.S.-made hardware, but China has a huge numerical superiority and is adding advanced equipment of its own.
    The weapons packages from Lockheed Martin Co , Boeing and General Atomics are moving their way through the export process, three people familiar with the status of the deals on Capitol Hill said, and a notification to Congress is expected within weeks.
    One industry source said President Donald Trump was slated to be briefed on the packages this week by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.    Some of the deals had been requested by Taiwan more than a year ago, but are only now being moved through the approval process.    A State Department spokesman declined comment.
    A senior U.S. official, citing Chinese assertiveness in the Taiwan Strait, said: “There is no equilibrium today.    It is out of balance.    And I think that is dangerous.”
    Trump’s White House has made an https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-weapons/exclusive-trump-to-call-on-pentagon-diplomats-to-play-bigger-arms-sales-role-sources-idUSKBN1EX0WX effort to export weapons to U.S. allies trying to bolster their defenses, decrease dependence on U.S. troops while boosting U.S. companies and jobs.
    As he fights for re-election on Nov. 3, Trump and Republican supporters have ramped up their rhetoric against Beijing and sought to portray Democratic opponent Joe Biden as soft on China.
    Other factors include Taiwan’s bigger defense budget, and the fear in Taiwan that if Trump loses, Biden would be less willing to sell the U.S.’s most advanced weapons to them.
    Taiwan’s interest in U.S. weapons and equipment is not new.    The island is bolstering its defenses in the face of what it sees as increasingly threatening moves by Beijing, such as regular Chinese air force and naval exercises near Taiwan.
    The senior U.S. official said Taiwan’s increased defense spending was a good step, but it had to do more.
    “Taiwan, frankly, needs to do more in order to ensure that they indigenously have an ability to deter Chinese aggression,” the official said.
DEALS
    Drones that can see over the horizon for surveillance and targeting, coupled with advanced missiles and coastal defenses that include smart mines and anti-submarine capabilities to impede a sea invasion, have been discussed at the highest levels to make Taiwan more difficult to attack, like a “porcupine,” according to industry and congressional sources.
    A Lockheed Martin-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), essentially a truck-based rocket launcher, is among the weapons Taiwan wants, people familiar with the negotiations said.    Taiwan also seeks to buy sophisticated anti-tank missiles.
    In early August, Reuters reported that Washington is negotiating the sale of at least four of its large sophisticated aerial drones to Taiwan for what could be about $600 million.
    Also under discussion are land-based Boeing-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles to serve as a coastal defense against cruise missiles.
    Other systems include “underwater sea mines and other capabilities to deter amphibious landing, or immediate attack,” Taiwan’s de facto ambassador https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL8N2FD71A to United States said in July.
(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; additional reporting by Idrees Ali and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Chris Sanders and Grant McCool)

9/16/2020 Pompeo Says U.S. Will Do All It Needs To Ensure Iran Sanctions Enforced
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic
Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States would return to the United Nations to reimpose sanctions on Iran next week and would do all it needed to do to make sure those sanctions are enforced.
    Pompeo made the comments in a joint news conference in Washington with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
    Pompeo said last month he had triggered a 30-day process to reimpose all U.N. sanctions on Iran by lodging a complaint with the Security Council accusing Tehran of breaching a 2015 nuclear deal. Pompeo has said sanctions should be reimposed from Sunday.
    But 13 of the 15 council members said the U.S. move is void because Washington quit the nuclear deal two years ago and diplomats say few countries are likely to reimpose U.N. sanctions.
    “We will return to the United Nations to reimpose sanctions, so that the arms embargo will become permanent next week,” Pompeo said.
    “We’ll do all the things we need to do to ensure that those sanctions are enforced,” he added when asked how the United States would achieve that and what it would do to punish countries that do not reimpose the measures.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Doina Chiacu and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Michelle Nichols at United Nations; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

9/17/2020 Red Cross Warns Coronavirus Is Driving Discrimination In Asia
FILE PHOTO: Medical workers wearing protective suits pass by barbed wire in a red zone under enhanced lockdown,
amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo
    (Reuters) – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned on Thursday that the novel coronavirus is driving discrimination towards vulnerable communities in Asia, including migrants and foreigners.
    The humanitarian agency surveyed 5,000 people in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Pakistan and found about half blamed a specific group for spreading the coronavirus, with many mentioning Chinese people, immigrants and foreigners.
    “It is particularly concerning that both national migrant and foreign workers are blamed for the spread of COVID-19 as they are quite vulnerable already,” Dr Viviane Fluck, one of the lead researchers and the agency’s Asia Pacific community engagement and accountability coordinator, told Reuters.
    She said there should be more focus on combating “rumors that are linked to underlying power dynamics and structural issues of inequality.”
    More than half of the Indonesians surveyed blamed “foreigners and rule-breakers” while in Myanmar, the groups most often thought to be responsible were people from China and other foreigners.
    In Malaysia, two-thirds blamed a “specific group,” most frequently mentioning migrants, foreign tourists and “illegal foreigners”, the researchers said.
    Malaysian authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented migrants and refugees in May in a crackdown the United Nations said could push vulnerable groups into hiding and prevent them from seeking treatment.
    Police said at the time the operation was aimed at preventing people from traveling amid movement curbs.
    In Pakistan, most people surveyed blamed inadequate government controls on the Iranian border, followed by nationals including pilgrims coming back from Iran and then people from China.
    In all four countries, higher education had a small impact on whether respondents blamed a specific group, with university graduates slightly less likely to hold certain people responsible, the researchers said.
(Reporting by Poppy McPherson; Editing by Robert Birsel)

9/17/2020 Taiwan Says Chinese Anti-Submarine Aircraft Off Its Coast
FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese domestically built Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF) take part in the live-fire, anti-landing
Han Kuang military exercise, which simulates an enemy invasion, in Taichung, Taiwan July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang/
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Two Chinese anti-submarine aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Wednesday and were warned to leave by Taiwan’s air force, the island’s defence ministry said on Thursday, the day a senior U.S. official is due to arrive.
    Taiwan has complained repeatedly about stepped up Chinese military activity in the air and waters near it, in what Taipei sees as part of Beijing’s efforts to get them to accept Chinese sovereignty.
    Last week, Taiwan said China carried out two days of mass drills off its southwest coast, between mainland Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands, which China called a “necessary action” to protect their sovereignty.
    Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the two Chinese anti-submarine aircraft flew around the same air space to its southwest, and were given verbal warnings over radio to leave.
    Taiwan’s air force also monitored the two Chinese aircraft, it added in a brief statement.
    The announcement comes the same day U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach is due to arrive in Taiwan, in a trip likely to further rile Beijing which regularly denounces United States support for the democratic island.
    When U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan last month, the highest-level U.S. official to come in four decades, Chinese air force jets briefly crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait and were tracked by Taiwanese missiles.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)

9/17/2020 China Suffered ‘Far Fewer’ Casualties Than India In June Clash: Global Times Editor
An early morning general view of Leh, in the Ladakh region, September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    (Reuters) – China suffered “far fewer” than the 20 deaths incurred by India’s military in a clash on their border in the Himalayas in June, the Global Times editor-in-chief said in a tweet, contradicting a claim made by India’s defence minister.
    “No Chinese soldiers was captured by Indian troops, but PLA captured many Indian soldiers that day,” Hu Xijin said in the tweet https://twitter.com/HuXijin_GT/status/1306622885050478592, referring to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
    The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.
    The tweet was accompanied by a screenshot, stamped ‘fake news’, of an Indian media report about defence minister Rajnath Singh saying India inflicted heavy casualties on Chinese forces during the fighting.
    The June clash in the Ladakh region, in the western part of their border, was the worst violence between the nuclear-armed neighbours in decades.    China has not released casualty figures for its troops.
    “They (Indian troops) also sent a very strong message by imposing heavy casualties on the Chinese PLA,” Singh was quoted as saying in the Indian parliament on Tuesday in the report https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-inflicted-heavy-casualties-on-chinese-forces-during-galwan-clash-rajnath-singh-in-lok-sabha/story-LCN5YDRaKWCzYgXLYcMBmN.html.
(Reporting by Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter)

9/17/2020 Top U.S. Diplomat For East Asia Calls China ‘Lawless Bully’ by David Brunnstrom and Patricia Zengerle
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell speaks to reporters as
he arrives at Narita international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan, July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia said on Thursday China’s recent actions around the world were not those of a responsible global actor, but of a “lawless bully,” a further ratcheting up of rhetoric against Beijing as the U.S. election approaches.
    In prepared testimony for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, David Stilwell said the United States was not asking other countries to choose sides, but to stand up against China’s “malign” behavior and to protect their own sovereignty and economic interests.
    At the same time, Stilwell said U.S. competition with China need not lead to conflict, and that the United States sought to cooperate with Beijing where interests aligned, for instance on North Korea.
    Stilwell said in the past several months there had been “particularly egregious examples of Beijing’s conduct.”
    These included violence on its border with India and “aggressive” moves in the South China Sea, around Taiwan, and in waters China disputes with Japan.
    He also referred to alleged Chinese attempts to “wipe out” Mongolian and Tibetan culture, “a continued campaign of repression and forced labor” in Xinjiang and Beijing’s imposition of a “draconian” National Security Law in Hong Kong.
    “These are not the actions of a responsible global actor, but a lawless bully,” he said.
    China’s embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Stilwell’s remarks, but Beijing routinely rejects such criticisms as inaccurate and ill-intentioned.
    Stilwell’s comments came as the U.S. administration has stepped up criticism, sanctions and other actions against China as Republican President Donald Trump campaigns for reelection in November.
    China has become the main foreign policy issue in the campaign. On Thursday, Senate Democrats announced their own program to counter China’s global influence, unveiling sweeping legislation seeking to boost U.S. competitiveness and recast diplomacy with Beijing.
    The top U.S. diplomat for European affairs, Philip Reeker, told the same Senate hearing Europe was “arguably” the central front in China’s effort to supplant U.S. global leadership, but Russia remained the primary military threat there.
    Reeker said the United States was working to set up a senior level meeting with the European Union late this month or early next to launch a dialogue on China.
    Stilwell said Washington would continue to advance engagement with Taiwan, which China views as a lawless province, and provide it with arms to ensure it could defend itself, but stressed that Washington remained committed to a ‘one-China’ policy, which officially recognizes Beijing, not Taipei.
    Earlier, China said it would make a “necessary response” to a visit to Taiwan by U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach that began on Thursday, and had lodged a complaint with Washington.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

9/18/2020 Taiwan Scrambles Jets As 18 Chinese Planes Buzz Island by Ben Blanchard and Yew Lun Tian
U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach arrives at an airport in Taipei, Taiwan September 17, 2020. Central News Agency/Pool via REUTERS
    TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Taiwan scrambled fighter jets on Friday as 18 Chinese aircraft buzzed the island, including crossing the sensitive mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, in an escalation of tensions as a senior U.S. official held talks in Taipei.
    China had earlier announced the start of combat drills near the Taiwan Strait, denouncing what it called collusion between the island, which it claims as part of its territory, and the United States.
    U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach arrived in Taipei on Thursday for a three-day visit, the most senior State Department official to come to Taiwan in four decades – which China had said would prompt a “necessary response.”
    Beijing has watched with growing alarm the ever-closer relationship between Taipei and Washington, and has stepped up military exercises near the island, including two days of large-scale air and sea drills last week.
    With a U.S. presidential election looming in November, Sino-U.S. relations are under huge strain from a trade war, U.S. digital security concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.
    Taiwan said 18 Chinese aircraft were involved on Friday, a far larger number than it has previously announced for such encounters.
    “Sep. 18, two H-6 bombers, eight J-16 fighters, four J-10 fighters and four J-11 fighters crossed the midline of the TaiwanStrait and entered Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ,” the defence ministry said in an English-language tweet.
    “ROCAF scrambled fighters, and deployed air defence missile system to monitor the activities.”    The ROCAF, Taiwan’s air force, has scrambled frequently in recent months in response to Chinese intrusions.
    The ministry showed a map of the flight paths of Chinese jets crossing the Taiwan Strait mid-line, which normally combat aircraft from both sides avoid passing through.
    Taiwan’s Liberty Times newspaper said Taiwan air force jets had scrambled 17 times on Friday morning over four hours, warning China’s air force to stay away.
    It also showed a picture of missiles being loaded onto an F-16 fighter at the Hualien air base on Taiwan’s east coast.
REASONABLE, NECESSARY ACTION
    In Beijing, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Friday’s manoeuvres, about which he gave no details, involved the People’s Liberation Army’s eastern theatre command.
    “They are a reasonable, necessary action aimed at the current situation in the Taiwan Strait and protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ren said.
    He said Taiwan was a purely internal Chinese affair and accused its ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of stepping up “collusion” with the United States.
    Trying to “use Taiwan to control China” or “rely on foreigners to build oneself up” was wishful thinking and futile.    “Those who play with fire will get burnt,” Ren said
    Taiwan’s presidential office urged China to exercise restraint, and urged the Taiwanese not to be alarmed, saying the military had a grasp on the situation.
    Hu Xijin, editor of China’s widely read state-backed Global Times tabloid, wrote on his Weibo microblog that the drills were preparation for an attack on Taiwan should the need arise, and that they enabled intelligence-gathering about Taiwan’s defence systems.
    “If the U.S. secretary of state or defence secretary visits Taiwan, People’s Liberation Army fighters should fly over Taiwan island, and directly exercise in the skies above it,” he added.
    Chinese fighter jets briefly crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait last month as the U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar was in Taipei, and last week China carried out two days of large-scale drills off Taiwan’s southwestern coast.
    The United States, like most countries, has official ties only with China, not Taiwan, though Washington is the island’s main arms supplier and most important international backer.
    This week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations had lunch with Taiwan’s top envoy in New York.    China’s U.N. mission said it had lodged “stern representations” over the meeting.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Gerry Doyle, Simon Cameron-Moore and Kevin Liffey)

9/18/2020 In Bumpy U.N. Dealings, Trump Found Backing On North Korea, Isolation On Iran by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump talk in the garden of the Metropole
hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam Feb. 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Though famously skeptical of the United Nations, U.S. President Donald Trump harnessed its collective power to impose crushing sanctions on North Korea in a bid to start talks with Pyongyang, but faces frustration over a similar push on Iran.
    While the U.N. Security Council was unified on North Korea, there is almost total opposition to the Trump administration’s assertion that it has triggered a return of all U.N. sanctions on Iran, using a process agreed under a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran that Washington quit two years ago.
    Diplomats expect Iran to be a focus when Trump addresses the annual U.N. meeting of world leaders on Tuesday from the     White House just days after a deadline passes that Washington says requires all countries to extend https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-usa-arms-exclusive/exclusive-trump-plans-executive-order-to-punish-arms-trade-with-iran-sources-idUSKBN268308?il=0 an arms embargo and reimpose other sanctions on Tehran.
    It will be the fourth U.N. speech by Trump, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 3 and espouses an “America first” approach often at odds with the multilateralism that governs the world body.    Diplomats gasped during his debut when he threatened “fire and fury” on North Korea and laughed the second year when he boasted about his accomplishments. Last year he denounced Iran’s “bloodlust,” but said there was a path to peace.
    After years of U.S. rhetoric on Iran at the United Nations, Washington said it took action at the 15-member Security Council last month that it said would lead to a return of all U.N. sanctions on Iran this weekend.
    But 13 members, including America’s long-time allies, said the U.S. move has no legal effect and diplomats say few countries are likely to implement the measures, which were lifted under the deal between world powers and Iran that aimed to stop Tehran developing nuclear weapons.
    “There should be joint leverage against Iran on the nuclear and other files,” said a senior European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.    “Damage is done when that unity cracks and one country goes it alone and the leverage is reduced.”
    Pompeo said on Wednesday that the United States would do “all the things we need to do” to enforce the U.N. sanctions.
    Trump called the Iran nuclear agreement the “worst deal ever.”    Since withdrawing, the Trump administration has imposed unilateral sanctions under what it says is a “maximum pressure” campaign to force Iran to negotiate a new deal.
    A senior Security Council diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, argues the Iran nuclear deal had been working until Washington quit and “Iran is closer to the bomb right now than it was two years ago,” adding that the threat posed by North Korea “now is bigger than three years ago.”
PRESSURE TO TALK
    Despite his disregard for the U.N., Trump got off to a good start in his first year in office: the Security Council unanimously agreed to a U.S.-led push bolster sanctions on North Korea three times after Pyongyang tested long range ballistic missiles and carried out a nuclear test.
    In 2018, then U.S. envoy to the U.N. Nikki Haley recalled that she told Trump: “We would not be in the situation we are with North Korea without the U.N. because that was the only way to get the international community on the same page.”
    The pressure allowed Trump to open a diplomatic door to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un aimed at Pyongyang’s denuclearization.    But despite three meetings, no progress has been made and Security Council unity appears shaky as China and Russia are suggesting it consider lifting some sanctions on Pyongyang to encourage further talks.
    Trump, however, says his diplomacy is working as Kim has not carried out any nuclear or long-range missile tests since 2017.
    Trump has turned his back on decades of U.S. leadership at the U.N., by pulling out of the U.N. Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization, the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, a global accord to tackle climate change and opposed a U.N. migration pact.    Washington has cut funding for the U.N. Population Fund and the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees.
    Nevertheless, Trump has admitted that he sees potential in the U.N. and has used the U.S. position at the organization’s biggest funder to push Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to carry out reforms.
    Trump, it turns out, also pushed for U.N. involvement when his diplomats would not.
    When North Korea invited then U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman to visit Pyongyang in 2017 amid Trump’s blunt rhetoric and sanctions campaign, Trump overruled opposition from his own officials to say Feltman should go, Feltman told Reuters last week.
    Six months later, Trump had his first meeting with Kim in Singapore.
    “I wouldn’t say it paved the way (for the Singapore summit), I think everything contributes,” Guterres told Reuters on Monday of the visit by Feltman in 2017.    “But what matters here is that the key protagonists engage with each other.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

9/18/2020 Attacks Surge In Northwest Pakistan As Afghan Peace Effort Brings Shifting Sands by Umar Farooq
FILE PHOTO: Pakistani soldiers drive in the South Waziristan region near the Afghan border on November 28, 2012. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood
    ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Militants have stepped up attacks on security forces in northwest Pakistan raising fears of a revival of their insurgency and a return of lawlessness as brighter prospects for peace in Afghanistan herald shifting Islamist alliances.
    The ethnic Pashtun border region was for years a haven for militants who fled the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.    But the Pakistani military cleared out the strongholds in a 2014 offensive, driving most of the fighters into Afghanistan.
    But since March, al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban, facing the risk of losing havens on the Afghan side of the border if their Afghan Taliban allies make peace there, have unleashed a wave of attacks on the Pakistani security forces.
    Bolstering their bid to re-establish themselves in the border lands, the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), struck an alliance in July with half a dozen small militant factions.
    “The group’s capability and military strength has increased, as has their reach,” said Mansur Khan Mahsud, executive director of the Islamabad-based FATA Research Centre.
    September has seen near daily incidents, from roadside bombs to sniper attacks, to ambushes and the killing of residents accused of collaborating with government forces.
    The militants have killed at least 40 soldiers since March, according to a Reuters tally of official figures.
    At least 109 people were killed in 67 attacks between January and July – twice the number in 2019, according to the FATA Research Centre.
    “TTP’s regrouping is concerning both because of its own activities and its links to groups like al Qaeda,” said Elizabeth Threlkeld, a former State Department official who served in Pakistan, now deputy-director for the South Asia program at the Washington-based Stimson Center.
    “It could again provide significant support to international terror groups if it continues to regain ground.”
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE
    Militant violence surged in Pakistan after it was pressed to sign on to the U.S.-led war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, even though it had for years supported the Afghan Taliban.
    Soon the Pakistani government found itself under attack from home-grown Taliban but the military succeeded in pushing them out of the region, known as the tribal areas, in 2014, forcing the Pakistani Taliban into Afghanistan.
    Millions of residents were displaced by the fighting but since then, militant violence in Pakistan has largely ceased.
    But now fears are growing that the surge of Pakistani Taliban violence is an unintended consequence of efforts to make peace in Afghanistan.
    In February, the Afghan Taliban and the United States struck a deal allowing for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for Afghan Taliban guarantees they would not harbour other militants.
    The United Nations said in a report in July there were more than 6,000 Pakistani fighters in Afghanistan, most affiliated with the TTP, who could be heading home if they lose their refuge.
    “It’s a concern for everyone,” a Western security official based in Pakistan told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
    Pakistan’s military did not respond to a request for comment on the violence but its spokesman said on Twitter recently that the attacks were “meant to derail (the) Afghanistan Peace Process.”
    For those living in the area, insecurity is again becoming a daily worry.
    The TTP issued a statement this week telling residents to leave “until peace returns.”
    “Our war against Pakistan is continuing and you will continue to see daily attacks,” the militants said.
(Reporting by Umar Farooq and Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad; Editing by Gibran Peshimam, Robert Birsel)

9/18/2020 Dozens Of Hong Kong People Write Postcards To Fugitives Arrested By China by Carol Mang and Yanni Chow
Leaflets and postcards are seen at a booth to encourage people to send postcards to twelve Hong Kong residents being held in
the Chinese mainland after attempting to flee to Taiwan, in Hong Kong, China September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Dozens of people in Hong Kong braved heavy rain on Friday evening to write postcards to 12 fugitives arrested by China at sea last month to offer comfort during the upcoming mid-Autumn festival.
    The 12 were arrested on Aug. 23 for illegal entry into mainland Chinese waters after setting off from Hong Kong in a boat bound for self-ruled Taiwan.
    All were suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong related to the anti-government protests that erupted last year.    Ten had been charged, released on bail and not allowed to leave Hong Kong, and all are now being detained in neighbouring Shenzhen.
    On Friday, activists set up booths in two districts to collect postcards, with several dozen passing through to leave their messages.
    “The security agency will see this postcard, but I don’t care,” wrote recent university graduate Zol Chan, 22, on her card.    “Please take care of yourselves.”
    “Seeing their mothers crying in their press conference, I feel heartbroken and sad,” she said later.    Relatives of some of the detainees held a news conference on Saturday to demand their urgent return and plead for them to be allowed to call home and consult lawyers appointed by the families and not the Chinese government.
    As he wrote his message, university student Raymond Cho, 19, said he felt a responsibility to tell them “that there are still a lot of us who care about them.”
    Ten of the detainees had been charged with offences such as manufacturing explosives, arson, rioting or assaulting police.
    One other was suspected of colluding with foreign forces under a national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in June.
    It is unclear whether authorities will allow the postcards to reach the detainees.    This year, the mid-Autumn festival, a full moon harvest celebration across Asia, falls on Oct. 1, China’s national day.
    Police in Shenzhen said on Sunday they were suspected of illegal entry, their first public comment on the matter.    The same day, China’s foreign ministry labelled the group as “separatists.”
    On Tuesday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam voiced discontent with the group being characterised by some as “democratic activists being oppressed,” saying they were running away from law.    Lam said they would have to be “dealt with” by mainland authorities, but pledged to provide “feasible” assistance.
(Reporting by Carol Mang, Yanni Chow, Yoyo Chow and Aleksander Solum; Editing by Greg Torode and Chizu Nomiyama)

9/18/2020 Taiwan Scrambles Jets As 18 Chinese Planes Buzz During U.S. Visit by Ben Blanchard and Yew Lun Tian
FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese domestically built Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF) take part in the live-fire, anti-landing
Han Kuang military exercise, which simulates an enemy invasion, in Taichung, Taiwan July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Taiwan scrambled fighter jets on Friday as 18 Chinese aircraft buzzed the island, crossing the sensitive midline of the Taiwan Strait, in response to a senior U.S. official holding talks in Taipei.
    China had earlier announced combat drills and denounced what it called collusion between the island, which it claims as part of its territory, and the United States.
    U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach arrived in Taipei on Thursday for a three-day visit, the most senior State Department official to come to Taiwan in four decades – to which China had promised a “necessary response.”
    The U.S. State Department has said Krach, who arrived in Taipei on Thursday afternoon, is in Taiwan for a memorial service on Saturday for former President Lee Teng-hui, who was revered by many on the island and internationally as the father of Taiwan’s democracy.
    But Beijing has watched with growing alarm the ever-closer relationship between Taipei and Washington, and has stepped up military exercises near the island, including two days of large-scale air and sea drills last week.
    With a U.S. presidential election looming in November, Sino-U.S. relations are already under huge strain from a trade war, U.S. digital security concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.
    Taiwan said 18 Chinese aircraft were involved on Friday, far more than in previous such encounters.
    “Sep. 18, two H-6 bombers, eight J-16 fighters, four J-10 fighters and four J-11 fighters crossed the midline of the TaiwanStrait and entered Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ,” the defence ministry said in an English-language tweet.
    “ROCAF scrambled fighters, and deployed air defence missile system to monitor the activities.”    The ROCAF, Taiwan’s air force, has scrambled frequently in recent months in response to Chinese intrusions.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has led the Trump administration’s rhetorical offensive against China, accused Beijing of bluster when asked about the Chinese activity.
    “We sent the delegation to a funeral, and the Chinese have apparently responded by military blustering.    I’ll leave it at that,” he told a news conference on a visit to Guyana.
    The ministry showed a map of the flight paths of Chinese jets crossing the Taiwan Strait midline, which combat aircraft from both sides normally avoid passing through.
    Taiwan’s Liberty Times newspaper said Taiwanese jets had scrambled 17 times over four hours, warning China’s air force to stay away.
    It also showed a picture of missiles being loaded onto an F-16 fighter at the Hualien air base on Taiwan’s east coast.
‘REASONABLE, NECESSARY ACTION’
    In Beijing, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Friday’s maneuvers, about which he gave no details, involved the People’s Liberation Army’s eastern theater command.
    “They are a reasonable, necessary action aimed at the current situation in the Taiwan Strait and protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ren said.
    He said Taiwan was a purely internal Chinese affair and accused its ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of stepping up “collusion” with the United States.     Trying to “use Taiwan to control China” or “rely on foreigners to build oneself up” was wishful thinking and futile.    “Those who play with fire will get burnt,” Ren said.
    Taiwan’s presidential office urged China to exercise restraint, and urged the Taiwanese not to be alarmed, saying the military had a grasp on the situation.
    Government officials in Taiwan, including President Tsai Ing-wen, have expressed concern in recent weeks that an accidental military encounter could spark a wider conflict.
    Hu Xijin, editor of China’s widely read state-backed Global Times tabloid, wrote on his Weibo microblog that the drills were preparation for an attack on Taiwan should the need arise, and that they enabled intelligence-gathering about Taiwan’s defense systems.
    “If the U.S. secretary of state or defence secretary visits Taiwan, People’s Liberation Army fighters should fly over Taiwan island, and directly exercise in the skies above it,” he added.
    Chinese fighter jets briefly crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait last month while U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar was in Taipei, and last week China carried out two days of large-scale drills off Taiwan’s southwestern coast.
    The United States, like most countries, has official ties only with China, not Taiwan, though Washington is the island’s main arms supplier and most important international backer.
    This week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations had lunch with Taiwan’s top envoy in New York.    China’s U.N. mission said it had lodged “stern representations” over the meeting.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Additional reportnmg by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Gerry Doyle, Simon Cameron-Moore, Kevin Liffey and Jonathan Oatis)

9/18/2020 India’s Modi Defends New Law As Critics Warn Of Risks To Farmers by Mayank Bhardwaj and Rajendra Jadhav
FILE PHOTO: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks on as he speaks to the media inside the parliament
premises on the first day of the monsoon session in New Delhi, India, September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    NEW DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended new laws aimed at lifting restrictions on farmers on Friday after protests by opposition parties, some farming bodies and even an ally of his Bharatiya Janata Party.
    India’s lower house of parliament on Thursday passed three emergency executive orders issued in June by Modi’s cabinet which were targeted at reforming the antiquated Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act.
    This includes a rule that forces growers to sell their produce only at India’s more than 7,000 regulated wholesale markets and Modi said the new legislation would “unshackle” millions of farmers and help them get better prices.
    “It will also remove middlemen and let farmers sell their produce directly to buyers,” Modi said.
    Many farmer organisations oppose the legislation because they say that if big buyers start buying directly from producers, small growers will hardly have any bargaining power.
    “The APMC Act forces every buyer to come to wholesale markets, which is designed to help farmers get competitive, assured and timely payments,” Dharmendra Malik, a farm leader from Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, said.
    If big institutions start purchasing directly from farmers, state governments will lose out on the tax that these buyers have to pay at wholesale markets, Malik said.
    “The current system ensures that farmers are paid immediately after selling their crop in the market yard itself.    If farmers sell outside, who will ensure that they are paid the promised price” a Maharashtra state official said.
    Modi has said that the wholesale markets will operate as usual as the APMC Act has not been abolished and that farmers are simply being given an option to sell directly to buyers.
    But Sudhir Panwar, chief of farmers’ group Kisan Jagriti Manch, said if large buyers are allowed to buy directly from farmers, wholesale markets would gradually disappear.
    India’s food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned on Thursday, calling the legislation “anti-farmer.”
    Badal’s Shiromani Akali Dal party is a BJP ally with a strong base in Punjab, one of India’s two bread basket states, where farmers form an influential voting bloc.
(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai and Mayank Bhardwaj in New Delhi; Editing by Alexander Smith)

9/18/2020 Whole Of Iran On Coronavirus Red Alert Due To Rise In Deaths, Health Official Says
FILE PHOTO: Iranians wear protective face masks, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as
they walk in Vali-E-Asr street, in Tehran, Iran, May 20, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Ali Khara via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – A senior Iranian health official has declared a coronavirus red alert covering the entire country as daily deaths and cases increase at an alarming rate, Iranian state TV reported on Friday.
    Iran, one of the Middle Eastern countries hardest hit by the pandemic, has been divided up into white, orange/yellow and red regions based on the number of infections and deaths.
    The death toll rose by 144 to 23,952 on Friday, while the total number of identified cases spiked by 3,049 to 416,198, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on television.
    “The colour classification doesn’t make sense anymore.    We no longer have orange and yellow.    The entire country is red,” deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi said on television.
    “If the current course continues, the death toll will reach 45,000,” he added, without giving a time frame.
    In the northwestern city of Tabriz, for instance, the number of hospitalised patients had jumped from under 40 a day to 160, and in the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Qom it had increased from 10 a day to 160, Harirchi said, again without providing a time period for the increases.
    He said only a 95% use of masks and a 50% fall in gatherings could reduce the death toll.
(The story in paragraph 6, corrects to say .. northwestern ..not.. northeastern.)
(Editing by Hugh Lawson, London Editing Desk)

9/18/2020 Thai Protesters Expect Biggest Anti-Government Rally In Years by Panarat Thepgumpanat
FILE PHOTO: Anti-government protesters and students give three-fingers salutes during a demonstration demanding the government
resign, in front of the Ministry of Education in Bangkok, Thailand September 5, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai protest leaders said on Friday they expected the biggest anti-government demonstration in years this weekend and vowed to reiterate their calls for reforms of the monarchy despite official pressure to stop.
    Demonstrators have since mid-July been demanding the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader, and changes to a constitution they say was designed to extend military domination of politics after a general election last year.
    Some protesters have also called for unprecedented reforms of the monarchy, previously a taboo subject in Thailand.
    “Tomorrow’s rally will make history and will be the biggest one since the 2014 coup,” Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, one of the protest leaders, told Reuters, adding that he believed as many as 100,000 people could show up.
    Police said they expected up to 50,000 to join the protest.
    Thai politics has for years been marked by challenges to the royalist, military establishment by politicians backed by poor urban and rural voters, and more recently by the student protesters.
    The military, which proclaims itself the defender of the country’s core institutions, in particular the monarchy, has stepped in to overthrow civilian governments numerous times, most recently in 2014, citing the need to maintain stability.
    Tens of thousands of protesters are due to gather on Saturday at Bangkok’s Thammasat University and march to the prime minister’s offices, known as Government House, on Sunday to put pressure on Prayuth.
    A group of protesters from the university last month staged a rally at which a 10-point demand for reform of the monarchy was read out, including a call for the abolition of a law against royal criticism.
    Prayuth has said the government would allow protests as a form of free speech, but that demands for reform of the monarchy were not acceptable.
    Parit said the demands would be reiterated this weekend.
    Thammasat University said last week it would not allow the gathering on its campus, but protesters said they were sticking to their plan.    They will also use nearby Sanam Luang, a large open space in front of the Grand Palace.
    Police said marching to Government House could break a law prohibiting large gatherings near restricted sites.
    On Thursday, Prayuth warned the protesters against raising the risks of spreading the novel coronavirus and urged them to put the health crisis before politics.
(Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin, Robert Birsel)

9/19/2020 Taiwan Scrambles Fighters As Chinese Jets Again Fly Near Island by Ben Blanchard
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) founder
Morris Chang attend a banquet for the U.S. delegation in Taipei, Taiwan September 18, 2020. Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via REUTERS
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s air force scrambled jets for a second consecutive day on Saturday as multiple Chinese aircraft approached the island and crossed the sensitive midline of the Taiwan Strait, with the island’s government urging Beijing to “pull back from the edge.”
    Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said 19 Chinese aircraft were involved, one more than in the previous day, with some crossing the Taiwan Strait midline and others flying into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone off its southwest coast.
    It said China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, sent 12 J-16 fighters, two J-10 fighters, two J-11 fighters, two H-6 bombers and one Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft.    According to a map the ministry provided, none got close to mainland Taiwan itself or flew over it.
    “ROCAF scrambled fighters, and deployed air defence missile system to monitor the activities,” the ministry said in a tweet, referring to the Republic of China Air Force, the formal name of Taiwan’s air force.
    Taiwan has complained of repeated incidents of Chinese aircraft near the island this year, and has regularly had to scramble its F-16s and other jets to intercept them.
    China had on Friday announced, at a news conference in Beijing about China’s U.N. peacekeeping efforts, combat drills near the Taiwan Strait and denounced what it called collusion between the island and the United States.
    U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach arrived in Taipei on Thursday for a three-day visit, the most senior State Department official to come to Taiwan in four decades, angering China.    He left Saturday afternoon, according to Taiwan’s foreign ministry.
‘PULL BACK FROM THE EDGE’
    Taiwan’s Defence Ministry, in a separate statement, said China was carrying out provocative activities, seriously damaging peace and stability.
    “The Defence Ministry sternly condemns this, and calls on the mainland authorities to control themselves and pull back from the edge.”
    China’s widely read state-backed tabloid the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in a Saturday editorial that Friday’s drills were a rehearsal to take over Taiwan.
    “The U.S. and Taiwan must not misjudge the situation, or believe the exercise is a bluff. Should they continue to make provocations, a war will inevitably break out,” it said.
    Both sides need to resume dialogue to reduce the risk of war, Johnny Chiang, leader of Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang, wrote on his Facebook page.
    “People who are willing to play a communication role are stigmatised and people who clamour for war are regarded as heroes.    Such an atmosphere is definitely not conducive to the peaceful and stable development of the Taiwan Strait,” said Chiang, whose party traditional favours close ties with China.
    Life has continued as normal in Taiwan with no sign of panic.    The island has long been accustomed to living with Chinese threats.
    Taiwan’s people have shown no interest in being ruled by autocratic China, re-electing President Tsai Ing-wen in a landslide last year on what was largely a platform of standing up to Beijing.
    The latest Chinese flights came the same day Taiwan held a memorial service for former president Lee Teng-hui, dubbed “Mr. Democracy” for ending autocratic rule in favour of free elections and championing Taiwan’s separate identity from China.
    Lee, who died in July, became Taiwan’s first democratically elected president in March 1996 after eight months of intimidating war games and missile tests by China in waters around the island.
    Those events brought China and Taiwan to the verge of conflict, prompting the United States to send an aircraft carrier task force to the area in a warning to Beijing’s government.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Gerry Doyle)

9/19/2020 Thousands Rally In Thai Capital Against Government by Matthew Tostevin and Patpicha Tanakasempipat
A pro-democracy protester with a painted face holds a placard as he attends a mass rally to call for the ouster of prime minister
Prayuth Chan-ocha's government and reforms in the monarchy, in Bangkok, Thailand, September 19, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters in Thailand’s capital demonstrated against the government of former coup leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Saturday, with many also demanding reforms to the powerful monarchy.
    “Down with feudalism, long live the people,” was one of the chants.
    Protests have been building since mid-July to call for the removal of the government, a new constitution and elections.    They have also broken a long-standing taboo by criticising the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
    Police said at least 5,000 people had gathered at the campus of Thammasat University, long seen as a hotbed of opposition to the military and royalist establishment, and scene of a massacre of protesters in 1976.
    Under light rain, protesters spilled onto Sanam Luang, a public space opposite the Grand Palace where state ceremonies are traditionally held.
    “Today the people will demand back their power,” Arnon Nampa, a human rights lawyer who has emerged as a leading figure in the protest movement, said on Twitter.
    Sept. 19 is the anniversary of the coup against the populist then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.    Among the protesters were many of his red shirt followers, veterans of clashes a decade ago with pro-establishment yellow shirts.
    “I’m here to fight for the future of my children and grandchildren.    I hope that by the time I die, they will become free,” said 68-year-old Tasawan Suebthai, a redshirt with amulets round her neck to ward off bullets.
    So far the protests have been peaceful.    The biggest to date drew more than 10,000 people last month, but organisers expect more this time.
ESTABLISHMENT UNDER FIRE
    Thai politics has for years been marked by challenges to the royalist and military establishment by politicians backed by poor urban and rural voters, and more recently by the student protesters.
    The military, which proclaims itself the defender of the country’s core institutions, in particular the monarchy, has stepped in to overthrow civilian governments numerous times, most recently in 2014, citing the need to maintain stability.
    Prayuth has said the government would allow protests as a form of free speech but that demands for reform of the monarchy were not acceptable.
    “We are fighting to put the monarchy in the right place, not to abolish it,” one protest leader, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, told the crowd.
    A 20-year-old student, who gave her name only as Waan for fear of reprisals, said it was time to reform the monarchy.    “It’s a problem that’s been swept under the rug for so long.    This must end right here.”
    Protesters demand the scrapping of a lese majeste law against criticism of the monarchy.    They also seek to reduce the king’s constitutional powers and his control over the palace fortune and units of the army.
    On Thursday, Prayuth warned the protesters against raising the risks of spreading the novel coronavirus and urged them to put the health crisis before politics.
    Protesters jeered when a police officer told a group of them that they could only stay for an hour because of the risk of transmitting the virus.    Police said they were deploying 10,000 officers on Saturday.
(Reporting by Matthew Tostevin and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Michael Perry and William Mallard)

9/19/2020 India Parliament Session May Be Cut Short As COVID-19 Cases Among Lawmakers Rise – Sources by Nigam Prusty
FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks wait for their rapid antigen test results outside a community centre, amidst
the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s parliament session that began this week is likely to be cut short after 30 lawmakers were found infected with the coronavirus, two senior parliament officials said, as the number of cases in the country rose to 5.3 million.
    The Indian parliament met for the first time in six months on September 14 and was to function until Oct. 1, but the two officials said its duration could be reduced by a week.
    “Since the commencement of the session the number of positive cases have gone up so the government is thinking of cutting short the session,” said one of the two officials, who are involved in the functioning of parliament proceedings.
    The government has also mandated daily tests for journalist entering parliament to cover the session from Saturday.
    Piyush Soperna, joint director at the country’s upper house’s secretariat, said in an email response that it has no information on the issue of prematurely ending the parliament session next week.
    India, which recorded 93,337 new infections in the last 24 hours, has been posting the highest single-day caseload in the world since early August, according to a Reuters tally.
    India is the second-most badly hit country after United States with total recorded coronavirus cases at 5.3 million.
    However, deaths in India have been relatively low.
    The virus has killed 1,247 people in last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 85,619, government data showed on Saturday.
    The lawmakers who have been infected include Nitin Gadkari, highways and medium and small enterprises minister in Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s cabinet.
    On Wednesday, India’s federal government ordered its states not to hoard oxygen supplies and allow free movement to cope with the rising number of cases.
(Writing by Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Michael Perry and Gerry Doyle)

9/19/2020 President Trump Says Peace Talks With The Taliban Are Going ‘Very Well’ by OAN Newsroom
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room
of the White House, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
    President Trump recently confirmed his administration is having very good discussions with the Taliban.    On Friday, he gave an update on the ongoing peace talks between the militant group and the Afghan government.
    Official negotiations between the two sides began last weekend.
    President Trump emphasized while the Taliban is “tough” and “very smart,” he remains confident the U.S. will be able to withdraw more troops from the area soon.
    “They’re very tough, they’re very smart, they’re very sharp, but you know, it’s been 19 years and even they are tired of fighting, in all fairness,” he explained.    “Very shortly, we’ll be down to less than 4,000 soldiers, so we’ll be out of there knowing that certain things have to happen, certain things have to be fulfilled.”
    U.S. troops are expected to completely withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021.    However, the President reiterated he wants to make sure certain requirements of the deal are fulfilled first.

9/19/2020 Iran’s Zarif Says World Should Oppose U.S. Sanctions Or Expect Same
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the presidential
palace in Baabda, Lebanon August 14, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The world community should oppose the United States’ use of sanctions to impose its will as a “bully,” or expect to face sanctions itself, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday.
    Separately the chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards rejected as a “bluff” any possibility of a military conflict with the United States.
    U.S. President Donald Trump plans to issue an executive order allowing him to impose U.S. sanctions on anyone violating an arms embargo against Iran, which is set to expire in October, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
    The Trump administration says that on Saturday all United Nations sanctions on Iran have to be restored and the conventional arms embargo will no longer expire in mid-October.
    “The Americans as a rule act as a bully and impose sanction…    The world community should decide how to act towards bullying,” Zarif told Iranian state television hours before the U.S. move aiming to restore U.N. sanctions against Iran.
    “As they (other countries) will face the same thing tomorrow when America takes the same action towards the Nord Stream project, as well as other projects because a bully will continue to act as a bully if he is allowed to do it once,” Zarif said.
    The United States and many European countries oppose the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which they say will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.
    “No power, including the United States, has the conditions to impose a new war on the Iranian nation, so people should not worry about these exaggerated bluffs by the U.S. president,” said Revolutionary Guards Commander Hossein Salami, quoted by the semi-official news agency ISNA.
    Salami was apparently reacting to a tweet by Trump this week in which he said any Iranian attack against the United States would be met by a response “1,000 times greater in magnitude.”
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Chris Reese)

9/20/2020 U.N. Chief Says No Action On U.N. Iran Sanctions Due To ‘Uncertainty’ by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during an interview with Reuters at
U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Saturday he cannot take any action on a U.S. declaration that all U.N. sanctions on Iran had been reimposed because “there would appear to be uncertainty” on the issue.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that he triggered a 30-day process at the council leading to the return of U.N. sanctions on Iran on Saturday evening that would also stop a conventional arms embargo on Tehran from expiring on Oct. 18.
    But 13 of the 15 Security Council members say Washington’s move is void because Pompeo used a mechanism agreed under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which the United States quit in 2018.
    “There would appear to be uncertainty whether or not the process … was indeed initiated and concomitantly whether or not the (sanctions) terminations … continue in effect,” Guterres wrote in a letter to the council, seen by Reuters.
    “It is not for the Secretary-General to proceed as if no such uncertainty exists,” he said.
    U.N. officials provide administrative and technical support to the Security Council to implement its sanctions regimes and Guterres appoints independent experts to monitor implementation.    He said that “pending clarification” of the status of the Iran sanctions, he would not take any action to provide that support.
    Washington argues it triggered the return of sanctions – known as “snapback” – because a U.N. resolution that enshrines the pact still names it as a participant. Diplomats say few countries are likely to reimpose the measures lifted under the 2015 deal that aimed to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
    “If U.N. Member States fail to fulfill their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures,” Pompeo said in a statement on Saturday.
    He said that in the coming days Washington would announce additional measures to strengthen the implementation of the U.N. sanctions and     “hold violators accountable.”    The United States is trying to push Iran to negotiate a new deal with Washington.
    Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy responded on Twitter, “We all clearly said in August that U.S. claims to trigger snapback are illegitimate.    Is Washington deaf?
    Longtime U.S. allies Britain, France and Germany told the council on Friday that U.N. sanctions relief for Iran would continue and that any decision or action taken to reimpose U.N. sanctions “would be incapable of legal effect.”
    Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said on Twitter on Saturday, “U.S. illegal and false ‘deadline’ has come and gone … Swimming against international currents will only bring it more isolation.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by William Mallard)

9/20/2020 Relatives Of 12 Hong Kong People Arrested By China Demand Access For Own Lawyers
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Relatives of some of the 12 Hong Kong people arrested by China at sea last month demanded the city’s government check on their condition and ensure lawyers appointed by the families and not the Chinese government, can meet with them.
    The 12 were arrested on Aug. 23 for illegal entry into mainland Chinese waters after setting off from Hong Kong in a boat bound for self-ruled Taiwan.
    All were suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong related to the anti-government protests that erupted last year.    Ten had been charged, released on bail and not allowed to leave the former British colony, and all are now being detained in neighboring Shenzhen.
    Relatives of some of the detainees held a news conference outside the Hong Kong police headquarters on Sunday to express their frustration with local authorities.
    “We want our son back…even though we can’t visit him, at least give us a letter from him to confirm that he’s there,” the father of one detainee, Li Tsz Yin, said.
    The Hong Kong government and the police did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
    The relatives also asked police “to give an account of the date, time, place and process of the arrest” and whether there were any injuries or casualties, and the Marine Department to release radar records of the day of the arrest.
    They said the government “only shirked responsibility and confused the public with mere excuses.”
    “However, up to now, the lawyers appointed by the families have been refused to meet with the detainees.    In other words, the conditions of the so-called arrested persons are still known only to the Chinese authorities,” a statement said.
    On Tuesday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam voiced discontent with the group being characterised by some as “democratic activists being oppressed,” saying they were running away from the law. Lam said they would have to be “dealt with” by mainland authorities, but pledged to provide “feasible” assistance.
    Police in Shenzhen said last Sunday they were suspected of illegal entry, their first public comment on the matter.    The same day, China’s foreign ministry labelled the group as “separatists.”
(Reporting by Jessie Pang and Joyce Zhou; Writing by Scott Murdoch; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

9/20/2020 Thai Protesters Challenge Monarchy As Huge Protests Escalate by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Matthew Tostevin
Student leaders install a plaque declaring "This country belongs to the people" during a mass rally to call for the ouster of Prime Minister
Prayuth Chan-ocha and reforms in the monarchy, near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, September 20, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Openly challenging the monarchy of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, thousands of protesters marched in Bangkok on Sunday to present demands that include a call for reforms to curb his powers.
    Protesters have grown ever bolder during two months of demonstrations against Thailand’s palace and military-dominated establishment, breaking a longstanding taboo on criticising the monarchy – which is illegal under lese majeste laws.br>     The Royal Palace was not immediately available for comment.    The king, who spends much of his time in Europe, is not in Thailand now.
    The marchers were blocked by hundreds of unarmed police manning crowd control barriers.
    Protest leaders declared victory after handing police a letter detailing their demands.    Phakphong Phongphetra, head of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said on a video broadcast from the scene that the letter would be handed to police headquarters to decide how to proceed.
    “Our greatest victory in the two days is showing that ordinary people like us can send a letter to royals,” Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, told the crowd before it dispersed.
    At the biggest demonstration in years, tens of thousands of protesters on Saturday cheered calls for reform of the monarchy as well as for the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader, and a new constitution and elections.
SYMBOLIC PLAQUE
    Shortly after sunrise on Sunday, protesters cemented a plaque near the Grand Palace in Bangkok in the area known as Sanam Luang, or Royal Field.
    It reads, “At this place the people have expressed their will: that this country belongs to the people and is not the property of the monarch as they have deceived us.”
    Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said police would not use violence against protesters and it was up to the police to determine and prosecute any illegal speech.
    Bangkok authorities would need to determine whether the plaque is illegal and if it is it would need to be removed, Bangkok’s deputy police chief Piya Tawichai told reporters.
    Far from all Thais support the new plaque, which resembles one that had commemorated the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 and which was removed from outside a royal palace in 2017, after Vajiralongkorn took the throne.
    Prominent right-wing politician Warong Dechgitvigrom said the actions of the protesters were inappropriate and that the king was above politics.
    “It didn’t achieve anything,” he told Reuters.    “These actions are symbolically against the king, but the king is not an opponent.”
    Thai authorities have said criticising the monarchy is unacceptable in a country where the king is constitutionally “enthroned in a position of revered worship
    Protests that began on university campuses have drawn increasing numbers of older people.    That includes red shirt followers of ousted populist prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who had clashed for years with pro-establishment yellow shirts before Prayuth seized power in 2014.
    “The new generation is achieving what their parents and grandparents didn’t dare.    I’m very proud of that,” said Somporn Outsa, 50, a red shirt veteran.    “We still respect the monarchy, but it should be under the constitution.”
    Protesters say the constitution gives the king too much power and that it was engineered to allow Prayuth to keep power after elections last year.    He says that vote was fair.
    The next protest is scheduled for Thursday.    Protest leaders called on Thais to take Oct. 14 off work to show their support for change.
    “Radical change is hard in Thailand, but the movement has at least kept the momentum going,” said Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University.
(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Chris Reese and William Mallard)

9/20/2020 Taiwan President Says Has No Plans To Talk To Japan’s New PM
FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks to the media in Taipei, Taiwan, August 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo/File Photo
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Sunday that there was no plan for her talk by telephone with new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, after a Japanese envoy had told Tsai that Suga might be open to it, prompting concern in Beijing.
    Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has close cultural and historic ties with Japan, though Japan, like most countries, recognises China’s government in Beijing, not Taiwan’s.
    Meeting Tsai in Taipei on Friday, former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori, visiting for a memorial service for late president Lee Teng-hui, said Suga told him that “if there is the opportunity, he hopes to speak by phone or other means.”
    China’s foreign ministry said late on Saturday that Japan had told them such a thing “will never happen,” after Beijing sought clarification from Tokyo.
    Tsai told reporters that she did not talk about this issue with Mori.    “We also don’t have this plan at the moment to have a telephone conversation,” she said.
    A spokesman for Japan’s foreign ministry echoed Tsai’s comments, saying “there is no plan for a telephone call” between the two leaders.
    Japan cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favour of China in 1972. Taiwan was a Japanese colony between 1895 and 1945.
    Unlike in China or South Korea, many Taiwanese have a broadly positive view of Japan, saying that Japan’s rule brought progress to what was an undeveloped, largely agricultural island.
    Separately on Sunday, Tsai said recent approaches to Taiwan by Chinese aircraft show Beijing is a threat to the whole region.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Sam Nussey in Tokyo and Beijing newsroom; Editing by William Mallard)

9/20/2020 India Passes Farm Bills Amid Protest From Opposition Parties by Nigam Prusty
FILE PHOTO: Television journalists report from the premises of India's Parliament in New Delhi February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s parliament on Sunday passed new bills the government says will make it easier for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers, despite growing protest from opposition parties and a long-time ally of the ruling party.
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the new laws will reform antiquated laws and remove middlemen from agriculture trade, allowing farmers to sell to institutional buyers and large retailers like Walmart.
    The bills also make contract farming easier by providing a new set of rules.
    But Modi’s food processing minister from an alliance party resigned on Thursday in protest calling the bills “anti-farmer,” and the opposition parties have said farmers’ bargaining power will be diminished by allowing retailers to have tighter control over them.
    On Sunday, some opposition lawmakers raised slogans, tore documents and tried to grab the speaker’s microphone in the upper house of India’s parliament, before two controversial bills were passed by a voice vote.
    “The passage of both the bills in parliament is indeed a landmark day for Indian agriculture,” one of Modi’s senior cabinet ministers, Rajnath Singh, said on Twitter.
    Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Modi’s former food processing minister, is from a regional party which has a strong base in the northern state of Punjab and believes the bills will increase farmer suffering in the breadbasket state.
    Her party believes the laws will destroy wholesale markets which ensure fair and timely payments to farmers, weaken the state’s farmers and the overall state economy.
    Many farmer organizations have in recent days held street protests in Punjab and the neighboring Haryana state near New Delhi.    On Sunday, India’s main opposition Congress party criticized the government.
    “We will make sure that the government will have to step down on its knees before the farming community of this country,” said Randeep Surjewala, a party spokesman.
    “It will be farmers one side and big businesses on the other side, how will they fight?,” he added.
(Reporting by Nigam Prusty, Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Michael Perry)

9/20/2020 Taiwan President Says Drills Show China Is Threat To Whole Region by Ben Blanchard
FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks to the media in Taipei, Taiwan, August 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – The last two days of Chinese aircraft approaching Taiwan demonstrate that Beijing is a threat to the entire region and have shown Taiwanese even more clearly the true nature of China’s government, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Sunday.
    Multiple Chinese aircraft flew across the mid line of the Taiwan Strait and into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Friday and Saturday, causing Taiwan to scramble jets to intercept.    China claims Taiwan as its own territory.
    At a news conference in Beijing on Friday about China’s U.N. peacekeeping efforts, China announced combat drills near the Taiwan Strait and denounced what it called collusion between the island and the United States.
    The exercises took place as U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach was in Taipei, the most senior State Department office to come in four decades.
    Speaking to reporters, Tsai denounced China’s drills.
    “I believe these activities are no help to China’s international image, and what’s more have put Taiwan’s people even more on their guard, understanding even better the true nature of the Chinese Communist regime,” she said.
    “Additionally, other countries in the region also have a better understanding of the threat posed by China,” Tsai added.    “The Chinese Communists must restrain themselves, and not provoke.”
    China’s air force on Saturday put out a video showing its nuclear capable H-6 bombers, which have been involved in many Chinese fly-bys of Taiwan, exercising.
    One montage shows a simulation of an H-6 attack against an air base which appears by its runway layout to be the main U.S. air force base on Guam.
    Asked about that footage, and China’s decision to release it while Krach was in Taiwan, Tsai said China’s recent activities where a threat broader than just to Taiwan.
    “China’s existence is indeed aggressive and will bring a definite threat.”
    In comments carried by Chinese state media from a forum on relations with Taiwan in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Sunday made no direct mention of the current tensions.
    Meeting young Taiwanese, Liu Jieyi said it was inevitable that the two sides would grow closer.
    “Only when cross-strait relations are good can the interests and well-being of Taiwan compatriots be fundamentally guaranteed,” Liu said.
    But further friction seems likely as Taiwan and the United States further deepen relations, with Taiwan angling for a free trade agreement.
    Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua said on Sunday they were planning to hold a formal economic dialogue with the United States, after having what she called informal talks with Krach and his team on issues like supply chain restructuring.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Jeanny Kao; Editing by Michael Perry)

9/20/2020 India’s Coronavirus Infections Surge To 5.4 Million
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes swab from a man for a rapid antigen test at a brick kiln, amidst a
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the western state, in the village Rajoda, Gujarat, India, September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s coronavirus case tally surged to 5.4 million as it added 92,605 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the federal health ministry showed on Sunday.
    The country has posted the highest single-day caseload in the world since early August, and lags behind only the United States, which has 6.7 million cases in terms of total infections.
    A total of 1,113 people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said, taking mortalities to 86,752, which is a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

9/20/2020 Exclusive: U.S. To Slap Sanctions On Over Two Dozen Targets Tied To Iran Arms by Steve Holland and Arshad Mohammed
FILE PHOTO: Iran's President Hassan Rouhani is seen through a camera eyepiece as he addresses the 73rd session of the United
Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Monday will sanction more than two dozen people and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear, missile and conventional arms programs, a senior U.S. official said, putting teeth behind U.N. sanctions on Tehran that Washington argues have resumed despite the opposition of allies and adversaries.
    Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said Iran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of the year and that Tehran has resumed long-range missile cooperation with nuclear-armed North Korea.    He did not provide detailed evidence regarding either assertion.
    The new sanctions fit into U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to limit Iran’s regional influence and come a week after U.S.-brokered deals for the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize ties with Israel, pacts that may coalesce a wider coalition against Iran while appealing to pro-Israel U.S. voters ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
    The new sanctions also put European allies, China and Russia on notice that while their inclination may be to ignore the U.S. drive to maintain the U.N. sanctions on Iran, companies based in their nations would feel the bite for violating them.
    A major part of the new U.S. push is an executive order targeting those who buy or sell Iran conventional arms that was previously reported by Reuters and will also be unveiled by the Trump administration on Monday, the official said.
    The Trump administration suspects Iran of seeking nuclear weapons – something Tehran denies – and Monday’s punitive steps are the latest in a series seeking to stymie Iran’s atomic program, which U.S. ally Israel views as an existential threat.
    “Iran is clearly doing everything it can to keep in existence a virtual turnkey capability to get back into the weaponization business at a moment’s notice should it choose to do so,” the U.S. official told Reuters.
    The official argued Iran wants a nuclear weapons capability and the means to deliver it despite the 2015 deal that sought to prevent this by restraining Iran’s atomic program in return for access to the world market.
    In May 2018, Trump abandoned that agreement to the dismay of the other parties – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – and restored U.S. sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
    Iran, in turn, has gradually breached the central limits in that deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including on the size of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium as well as the level of purity to which it was allowed to enrich uranium.
    “Because of Iran’s provocative nuclear escalation, it could have sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of this year,” the official said without elaborating except to say this was based on “the totality” of information available to the United States, including from the IAEA.
    The Vienna-based agency has said Iran only began significantly breaching the 2015 deal’s limits after the U.S. withdrawal and it is still enriching uranium only up to 4.5%, well below the 20% it had achieved before that agreement, let alone the roughly 90% purity that is considered weapons-grade, suitable for an atomic bomb.
    “Iran and North Korea have resumed cooperation on a long-range missile project, including the transfer of critical parts,” he added, declining to say when such joint work first began, stopped, and then started again.
    Asked to comment on the impending new U.S. sanctions and the U.S. official’s other statements, a spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations dismissed them as propaganda and said they would further isolate the United States.
    “The U.S.’ ‘maximum pressure’ show, which includes new propaganda measures almost every week, has clearly failed miserably, and announcing new measures will not change this fact,” the mission’s spokesman, Alireza Miryousefi, told Reuters in an email.
    “The entire world understands that these are a part of (the) next U.S. election campaign, and they are ignoring the U.S.’ preposterous claims at the U.N. today.    It will only make (the) U.S. more isolated in world affairs,” he said.
    The White House declined comment in advance of Monday’s announcements.
‘SNAP BACK’ OF U.N. SANCTIONS?
    The U.S. official confirmed Trump will issue an executive order that would allow the United States to punish those who buy or sell conventional arms to Iran with secondary sanctions, depriving them of access to the U.S. market.
    The proximate cause for this U.S. action is the impending expiration of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran and to warn foreign actors – U.S. entities are already barred from such trade – that if they buy or sell arms to Iran they will face U.S. sanctions.
    Under the 2015 nuclear deal the U.N. conventional arms embargo is set to expire on Oct. 18.
    The United States says it has triggered a “snap back,” or resumption, of virtually all U.N. sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo, to come into effect at 8 p.m. on Saturday/0000 GMT on Sunday.
    Other parties to the nuclear deal and most U.N. Security Council members have said they do not believe the United States has the right to reimpose the U.N. sanctions and that the U.S. move has no legal effect.
    On Friday, Britain, France and Germany told the Security Council that U.N. sanctions relief for Iran – agreed under the 2015 nuclear deal – would continue beyond Sunday, despite Washington’s assertion.
    In letters to the Security Council on Saturday, China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun and Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia both described the U.S. move as “illegitimate” and said the U.N. sanctions relief for Iran would continue.
    Also on Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council he cannot act on the U.S. declaration that U.N. sanctions had been reimposed because it was not clear whether they had snapped back.
    “It is not for the Secretary-General to proceed as if no such uncertainty exists,” he said.
TARGETS INCLUDE IRAN’S NUCLEAR, MISSILE, ARMS GROUPS
    The new executive order will define conventional weapons broadly as any item with a potential military use, meaning it could cover such things as speed boats that Iran retrofits to harass vessels in international waters, the U.S. official told Reuters.
    It would also apply to conventional circuit boards that can be used in ballistic missile guidance systems, he added.
    The more than two dozen targets to be hit with sanctions on Monday include those involved in Iran’s conventional arms, nuclear and missile programs, the official said, saying some of the targets are already sanctioned under other U.S. programs.
    That could prompt criticism that the U.S. move is redundant and designed for public relations purposes to look tough on Iran, a charge critics have made about past U.S. sanctions actions.
    Among the targets will be Iran’s “most nefarious arms organizations,” about a dozen senior officials, scientists and experts from Iran’s nuclear complex, members of a procurement network that supplies military-grade dual-use goods for Iran’s missile program, and several senior officials involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, the U.S. official said.
    The official declined to name the targets, saying this would be made public on Monday, and stressed that the United States wants to deter foreign companies from dealing with them even if their governments believe this is legally permitted.
    “You might have a split in some countries where a foreign government may claim that the U.N. sanctions don’t snap back but their banks and companies will abide by U.S. sanctions because they want to make sure they are not a future target,” he said.
(Reporting By Steve Holland and Arshad Mohammed; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Francois Murphy in Vienna; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

9/20/2020 Relatives Of 12 Hong Kong People Arrested By China Demand Access For Own Lawyers by Jessie Pang and Scott Murdoch
Pro-democracy activists Eddie Chu and Owen Chow with relatives of some of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea, as they
reportedly sailed to Taiwan for political asylum, report to the police to seek help in Hong Kong, China September 20, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Relatives of some of the 12 Hong Kong people arrested by China at sea last month demanded the city’s government check on their condition and ensure that lawyers appointed by the families and not the Chinese government can meet with them.
    The 12 were arrested on Aug. 23 for illegal entry into mainland Chinese waters after setting off from Hong Kong in a boat bound for self-ruled Taiwan.
    All were suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong related to anti-government protests that erupted last year.    Ten had been charged, released on bail and not allowed to leave the former British colony, and all are now being detained in neighbouring Shenzhen.
    Relatives of some of the detainees held a news conference outside the Hong Kong police headquarters on Sunday to express their frustration with local authorities.
    “We want our son back… Even though we can’t visit him, at least give us a photo or letter from him to confirm that he’s there,” said the father of one detainee, Li Tsz Yin.
    The relatives also asked police “to give an account of the date, time, place and process of the arrest” and whether there were any injuries or casualties, and the Marine Department to release radar records of the day of the arrest.
    In a statement late on Sunday, Hong Kong police said authorities had reviewed the marine traffic records from Aug 23 and “did not find sign of any China coast guard vessels entering or staying in Hong Kong waters.”    It said marine police records would not be released to the public.
    “Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) are now maintaining close communication with the mainland law enforcement department to obtain the latest update of the case and take timely follow-up actions.    No further information has been received so far,” the statement said.
    Earlier, the detainees’ family members said the Hong Kong government “only shirked responsibility and confused the public with mere excuses.”
    “However, up to now, the lawyers appointed by the families have been refused (the chance) to meet with the detainees.    In other words, the conditions of the so-called arrested persons are still known only to the Chinese authorities,” a statement said.
    On Tuesday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam voiced discontent with the group being characterised by some as “democratic activists being oppressed,” saying they were running away from the law.    Lam said they would have to be “dealt with” by mainland authorities, but pledged to provide “feasible” assistance.
    Police in Shenzhen said last Sunday they were suspected of illegal entry, their first public comment on the matter.    The same day, China’s foreign ministry labelled the group as “separatists.”
(Reporting by Jessie Pang and Joyce Zhou; Writing by Scott Murdoch; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Gareth Jones)

9/20/2020 Japan’s New Prime Minister Suga, Trump Hold First Talks By Phone
FILE PHOTO: Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga poses for a picture following his press conference at LDP
(Liberal Democratic Party) headquarters, in Tokyo, Japan September 14, 2020. Nicolas Datiche/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he and U.S. President Donald Trump had held their first telephone conversation on Sunday since Suga took over as Japan’s new leader.
    Suga on Wednesday became Japan’s first new leader in nearly eight years, succeeding Shinzo Abe.    Abe had forged close ties with Trump, playing golf together and engaging in frequent phone calls and meetings.
    “I told him the Japan-U.S. alliance was the foundation of regional peace and stability,” Suga told reporters after the talks.    “We agreed to coordinate closely.”
    Suga faces a delicate balancing act in keeping Japan’s relations with the United States and China on track, as the two are locked in growing confrontation.
    “The president also said he wanted me to call him at any time, 24 hours, if something ever happened,” Suga said.
    During the 25-minute phone talk, Trump and Suga briefly exchanged their views on China, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai told a media briefing, but declined to elaborate.
    Sakai said the two leaders had agreed to press ahead with bilateral cooperation in the development of COVID-19 medication and vaccines, and to cooperate closely on North Korea-related matters, including the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by the North decades ago.
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher, Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by David Clarke and Raissa Kasolowksy)

9/20/2020 Iran’s Rouhani Says U.S. Faces Defeat In Bid To Reimpose U.N. Sanctions
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (not pictured)
in Tokyo, Japan, December 20, 2019. Charly Triballeau/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United States faces defeat in its move to reimpose U.N. sanctions on Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, as Washington declared all U.N. sanctions on Iran had been restored.
    “America is approaching a certain defeat in its sanctions move … It faced defeat and negative response from the international community,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.
    “We will never yield to U.S. pressure and Iran will give a crushing response to America’s bullying,” he said.
    The Iranian rial fell to a record low against the U.S. dollar on Sunday following the Trump administration’s declaration.
    The U.S. currency was offered for as much as 273,000 rials, up from 267,800 rials on Saturday, according to foreign exchange site Bonbast.com, which tracks the unofficial market.
    Iran has dismissed the U.S. sanctions move as “void and illegal” and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Saturday he cannot take any action on the U.S. declaration because “there would appear to be uncertainty” on the issue.
    The three European parties to the nuclear deal – France, Britain and Germany – said in a statement on Sunday that any decision or action taken to reimpose U.N. sanctions “would be incapable of legal effect” because Washington used a mechanism agreed under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which the United States quit in 2018.
    However, Trump plans to issue an executive order allowing him to impose U.S. sanctions on anyone violating sanctions against Iran.
    The Iranian foreign ministry described Washington’s efforts as “futile,” adding that “the U.S. approach is a major threat to the international peace and security and an unprecedented threat to the U.N. and the Security Council.”
    “Iran emphasizes that if the U.S., directly or with the cooperation of a number of its allies, makes any move in line with these threats, it will face a serious reaction and should account for all its dangerous consequences,” the ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
    Washington has unilaterally reimposed sanctions on Iran since 2018, which combined with a drop in oil prices have crippled the economy in Iran, which also has the highest COVID-19 death toll in the Middle East with 24,301 deaths.
    Iran’s rial has lost about 75% of its value since 2018.
(Additional reporting by Laurence Frost in Paris; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Toby Chopra)

9/20/2020 Myanmar Orders Yangon Stay At Home From Monday by Shoon Naing
FILE PHOTO: A worker ensembles a tent inside the quarantine facilities for the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) cases on a football pitch in Yangon, Myanmar, 16 September 2020. REUTERS/Shee Paw Mya Tin
    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar announced a stay-at-home order for its biggest city Yangon after reporting a record daily increase in new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.
    The order in Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital, comes into effect on Monday and will force all employees to work from home.    Schools were already closed under previous lockdown measures.
    The health ministry said on Sunday it had recorded 671 new coronavirus cases, without saying where.    Most of the recent new infections have been in Yangon Myanmar has so far reported a total 5,541 COVID-19 cases and 92 deaths.    Infections have increased to hundreds of new cases per day over the past weeks after the coronavirus resurfaced in the western state of Rakhine, following weeks without a confirmed domestic case.
    Domestic airlines announced that services have been suspended until the end of September.
(Reporting by Shoon Naing; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

9/20/2020 Australia Heads For Lowest Virus Count In Three Months by Byron Kaye
FILE PHOTO: Fire Services Victoria members write each other's names on their hazmat suits as they prepare to enter a public housing tower, locked down
in response to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Melbourne, Australia, July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia looked set to record its lowest daily increase in new coronavirus cases in three months on Sunday as a hard lockdown in the city of Melbourne brought the country’s virus epicenter down sharply.
    The second-most populous state Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, reported 14 new infections in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, down from 21 new cases the day prior and its lowest since June 19.
    That put Victoria, which has spent months under lockdown to slow a second wave of infections, on track to meet a target of keeping average daily increases below 50 by Sept. 28 when the authorities have said they may lift restrictions.
    Australia’s biggest state New South Wales, which has Sydney as the capital, reported two new cases, while the Queensland state also reported two, bringing the national total to 18, the lowest national tally since June 23.    The five other states and territories had not reported daily case numbers by Sunday morning, but have reported no increases most days for weeks.
    “There will of course always be debates about timing and whether we’re on schedule, ahead of schedule, all of those things, (but) ultimately these numbers are cause for great optimism and positivity,” Victorian state Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised news conference.
    Andrews, who has faced political pressure domestically for his hard-line approach to enforcing restrictions of movement, invoked recent spikes in infection rates in Europe as a warning about the possible effect of exiting the lockdown too soon.
    “It’s heartbreaking to see, all that those communities have given, all the sacrifice that they’ve made, and now they’ve got cases running perhaps more wildly than their first wave,” he said.    “You’ve got to see it off.”
    Melbourne has been under one of the toughest lockdowns in the world, including a nightly curfew, after a second outbreak in that state saw daily infection rates over 700 and prompted other states to close internal borders.
    Victoria also recorded five additional deaths associated with the virus and NSW reported one new death in the prior 24 hours, taking the national death toll to 850, according to government data.
    The country has reported just under 26,900 infections.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by David Gregorio and Michael Perry)

9/20/2020 Explainer: Why Thai Protesters Are Challenging The Monarchy
Student leader Parit Chiwarak speaks next to fellow student leader Panusaya Sithijirawattankul at the newly installed
plaque declaring "This country belongs to the people", during a mass rally to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayuth
Chan-ocha's government and reforms in the monarchy in Bangkok, Thailand, September 20, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Since a longstanding taboo on criticising Thailand’s monarchy was broken by protesters in early August, their rallies in Bangkok have got increasingly bold in criticising King Maha Vajiralongkorn and demanding change.
HOW DID THE PROTESTS START?
    Anti-government protests emerged last year after courts banned the most vocal party opposing the government of former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha.
    After a pause during measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, protests resumed in mid-July – pushing for Prayuth’s removal, a new constitution and an end to the harassment of activists.
    Some protesters went further with a list of 10 demands to reform the monarchy.
    Protesters say they do not seek to end the monarchy, only reform it, but conservatives are horrified by such attacks on an institution the constitution says is “enthroned in a position of revered worship.”
    Prayuth has said that while protests should be allowed, criticising the monarchy goes too far.
WHAT DOES THE PALACE SAY?
    The Royal Palace has made no comment on the protests and the demands for reform despite repeated requests.
WHAT REFORMS DO THE PROTESTERS WANT?
    Not all protesters demand reform of the monarchy, with some saying such calls are counterproductive, but the size of the weekend demonstrations showed the scale of support.
    Protesters want to reverse a 2017 increase in the king’s constitutional powers, made the year after he succeeded his widely revered late father King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
    Pro-democracy activists say Thailand is backtracking on the constitutional monarchy established when absolute royal rule ended in 1932.    They say the monarchy is too close to the army and argue that this has undermined democracy.
    Protesters also seek the scrapping of lese majeste laws against insulting the king.    They want the king to relinquish the personal control he took over a palace fortune estimated in the tens of billions of dollars, and some units of the army.
WHY ELSE ARE THEY UNHAPPY?
    Protesters complain that the king endorsed Prayuth’s premiership after elections last year that opposition figures say were engineered to keep his hands on power.    Prayuth, who as army chief led a 2014 coup, says the election was fair.
    Protesters have voiced anger that the king spends so much of his time in Europe.
    They have also challenged the spending of the Palace and lifestyle of the king, who has been married four times and last year took a royal consort.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PLAQUE?
    Protesters cemented a brass plaque on the Sanam Luang – or Royal Field – near the Grand Palace.    The plaque proclaims that Thailand belongs to the people not the monarch.
    It resembles one commemorating the end of absolute monarchy removed without explanation from outside one of the royal palaces in 2017, the year after Vajiralongkorn took the throne, and replaced by one with a pro-monarchist slogan.
WHAT DO THE LESE MAJESTE LAWS MEAN?
    The Thai monarchy is protected by Section 112 of the country’s Penal Code, which says whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent shall be jailed for three to 15 years.
    In June, Prayuth said the law was no longer being applied because of “His Majesty’s mercy.”    The Royal Palace has never commented on this.
    Rights groups say opponents of the government – including more than a dozen of the protest leaders – have recently been charged under other laws such as those against sedition and computer crimes.
    The government has said it does not target opponents but it is the responsibility of police to uphold the law.
(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Alex Richardson)

9/21/2020 China Air Force Video Appears To Show Simulated Attack On U.S. Air Base On Guam
FILE PHOTO: A view of the entrance of U.S. military Andersen Air Force base on the island of Guam, a U.S. Pacific Territory, August 11, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s air force has released a video showing nuclear-capable H-6 bombers carrying out a simulated attack on what appears to be Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. Pacific island of Guam, as regional tensions continue to rise.
    The video, released on Saturday on People’s Liberation Army Air Force Weibo account, came as China carried out a second day of drills near Chinese-claimed Taiwan, to express Beijing’s anger at the visit of a senior U.S. State Department official to Taipei.
    Guam is home to major U.S. military facilities, including the air base, which would be key to responding to any conflict in the Asia Pacific region.
    The Chinese air force’s two minute and 15 second video, set to solemn, dramatic music like a trailer for a Hollywood movie, shows H-6 bombers taking off from a desert base.    The video is called “The god of war H-6K goes on the attack!
    Halfway through, a pilot presses a button and looses off a missile at an unnamed seaside runway.
    The missile homes in on the runway, a satellite image of which is shown that looks exactly like the layout of Andersen, though it is not named.
    The music suddenly stops as images of the ground shaking appear, following by aerial views of an explosion.
    “We are the defenders of the motherland’s aerial security; we have the confidence and ability to always defend the security of the motherland’s skies,” the PLAAF wrote in a brief description for the video.
    Neither China’s Defence Ministry nor U.S. Indo-Pacific Command immediately responded to a request for comment on the video.
    Collin Koh, a research fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, said the video was aimed at highlighting China’s growing prowess in long-range power projection.
    “The video is meant to warn the Americans that even supposedly safe, rearward positions such as Guam may come under threat when conflicts over regional flashpoints, be it Taiwan or South China Sea, erupt,” he said.
    The H-6 has been involved in multiple Chinese flights around and near Taiwan, according to Taiwan’s air force, including those last week.
    The H-6K is the latest model of the bomber, which is based on the 1950s vintage Soviet Tu-16.
(Reporting by Beijing newsroom and Yew Lun Tian; Additional reporting and writing by Ben Blanchard in Taipei. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

9/21/2020 Taiwan Military Says It Has Right To Counter Attack Amid China Threats
FILE PHOTO: A Taiwanese AH-1 Cobra helicopter fires during the live-fire, anti-landing Han Kuang military exercise,
which simulates an enemy invasion, in Taichung, Taiwan July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan said on Monday its armed forces have the right to self-defence and counter attack amid “harassment and threats,” in an apparent warning to China, which last week sent numerous jets across the mid-line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
    Tensions have sharply spiked in recent months between Taipei and Beijing, which claims democratically run Taiwan as its own territory, to be taken by force if needed.
    Multiple Chinese aircraft flew across the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait and into the island’s air defence identification zone on Friday and Saturday, prompting Taiwan to scramble jets to intercept and President Tsai Ing-wen to call China a threat to the region.
    Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement it had “clearly defined” procedures for the island’s first response amid “high frequency of harassment and threats from the enemy’s warships and aircraft this year.”
    It said Taiwan had the right to “self-defence and to counter attack” and that it followed the guideline of “no escalation of conflict and no triggering incidents.”
    Taiwan would not provoke but is also was “not afraid of the enemy,” it added.
    The Chinese drills took place last week as Beijing expressed anger at the visit of a senior U.S. official to Taipei.
    On Monday, the official China Daily newspaper said in an editorial the United States was trying to use Taiwan to contain China but nobody should underestimate its determination to assert its sovereignty over the island.
    “The U.S. administration should not be blinkered in its desperation to contain the peaceful rise of China and indulge in the U.S. addiction to its hegemony,” it said.
    China has been angered by stepped-up U.S. support for Taiwan, including two visits in as many months by top officials, one in August by Health Secretary Alex Azar and the other last week by Keith Krach, undersecretary for economic affairs.
    The United States, which has no official diplomatic ties with the island but is its strongest international backer, is also planning major new arms sales to Taiwan.
    China this month held rare large-scale drills near Taiwan, which Taipei called serious provocation.    China said the exercise was a necessity to protect its sovereignty.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Robert Birsel)

9/21/2020 Exclusive: China To Lose Access To Australian Space Tracking Station by Jonathan Barrett
FILE PHOTO: The Australian flag flutters in front of the Great Hall of the People during a welcoming ceremony for
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (not in picture) in Beijing, China, April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – China will lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region.
    The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the ground station since at least 2011.    It is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the United States and its agencies, including NASA.
    The Swedish state-owned company told Reuters it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after its current contract expires.    However, it did not disclose when the lease runs out.
    “Given the complexity of the Chinese market, brought about by the overall geopolitical situation, SSC has decided to focus mainly on other markets for the coming years,” the SSC said in an emailed response to questions.
    The site is owned by SSC subsidiary, SSC Space Australia.
    The Australian government did not immediately respond to questions on Monday.
    The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
    The expansion of China’s space capabilities, which includes the growing sophistication of its Beidou navigation network, is one of the new frontiers of tension between the U.S. and China, who are clashing on everything from technology and trade to Chinese activities in the disputed South China Sea.
    Australia has a strong alliance with the United States, which includes working together on space research and programmes, while Canberra’s diplomatic and trade ties with Beijing have also been fracturing.
    China last used the Yatharagga Satellite Station, located about 350 km (250 miles) north of the Australian city of Perth, in June 2013 to support the three-person Shenzhou 10 mission which completed a series of space docking tests, SSC said.
    The SSC said the current contract supports Chinese scientific space missions within its programme for manned-space flights for telemetry, tracking and command services.
OVERSEAS EXPANSION
    Ground stations are a vital part of space programmes given they create a telecommunications link with spacecraft.
    While stations have different capabilities, they can be equipped to co-ordinate satellites for civil-military Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as Beidou, Russia’s GLONASS, the European Union’s Galileo system and U.S.-owned GPS.
    China’s space programme has been increasing its access to overseas ground stations in recent years in line with the expansion of its space exploration and navigational programmes.
    “Generally speaking anywhere you put a GNSS monitoring ground station will improve the accuracy of positioning for that region,” said Joon Wayn Cheong, a senior research associate at the University of New South Wales’ School of Electrical Engineering.
    Christopher Newman, professor of Space Law and Policy at Northumbria University in Newcastle, England, said China wants to remove its dependence on GPS as part of broader plans to expand its global influence.
    “GPS could be made unavailable to them in a military conflict.    An independent secure system is crucial for the capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army in respect to targeting, weapons, navigation,” Newman told Reuters.
    Beijing last year re-established diplomatic ties with the small Pacific island nation of Kiribati, where it has a mothballed ground station in the central Pacific Ocean.
(Graphic: Map of satellite stations in Western Australia – https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-SPACE/AUSTRALIA/qzjvqnezxpx/aw9Te-china-to-lose-australian-tracking-station-access.png)
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett; Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/21/2020 Plaque Challenging Thai Monarchy Removed From Near Palace by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Matthew Tostevin
A close-up view of the spot where a plaque placed by Thai pro-democracy protesters near the Grand Palace in Bangkok
that declared that Thailand belongs to the people and not the king, is seen after the plaque
was removed according to police, in Bangkok, Thailand September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – A plaque placed by Thai protesters to declare that Thailand belongs to the people and not the king was removed from near the Grand Palace in Bangkok overnight and police said on Monday they may charge those behind the symbolic gesture.
    The plaque was cemented in place on Sunday after a rally by tens of thousands of people who cheered calls for reforms to the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the latest challenge since activists broke a longstanding taboo on criticising him.
    Police said the plaque had been handed over by officials from the Bangkok city authority and the government’s Fine Arts Department.    One officer said it was “to keep as evidence to press charges against protesters.”
    Protesters voiced little surprise that the brass plaque had been removed after less than a day.
    Protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak told reporters an electronic file of the plaque was being shared to enable people to make more of them and place them wherever they want.
    “The plaque was already placed in the hearts of people.    You may remove it but we will make a new one,” he said.
    Protesters have grown ever bolder during two months of demonstrations against Thailand’s palace and military-dominated establishment.
    Criticising the monarchy is illegal under lese majeste laws, but recent arrests of more than a dozen activists – including Parit – were made on other grounds.    All have since been released on bail.
    Sunday’s demonstration was the biggest since the 2014 coup that brought Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to power.    Protesters called for his removal and for a new constitution and elections as well as for the royal reforms.     On Monday, Prayuth welcomed the fact the protest was peaceful.
    “Nation, religion and monarchy are the upmost pillars of the Thai people,” he told reporters.
    The demonstrators say the constitution gives the king too much power and that it was engineered to allow Prayuth to keep power after elections last year.    He says that vote was fair.
    The symbolism of the plaque is its resemblance to one that had commemorated the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 and which was removed from outside a royal palace in 2017, after Vajiralongkorn took the throne.
    The plaque says “this country belongs to the people and is not the property of the monarch as they have deceived us.”
    Craig Kunakorn, 33, a barber who had been at the protests came to visit the spot where the plaque had been cemented into the ground on Monday.
    “Everyone knew it would disappear soon but the success of creating it is something that will continue.    It is still an important symbol,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Orathai Sriring, Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Matthew Tostevin & Shri Navaratnam)

9/21/2020 Iran Says It Is Ready To Swap All Prisoners With U.S
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the presidential palace
in Baabda, Lebanon August 14, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran is ready for a full prisoner exchange with the United States, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a virtual address to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
    Relations between Tehran and Washington have deteriorated sharply since 2018 when U.S. President Donald Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran that have crippled its economy.
(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Gareth Jones)

9/21/2020 U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Iran’s Defense Ministry, Venezuela’s Maduro by Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks next to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin,
and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, during a news conference to announce the Trump administration's restoration of sanctions
on Iran, at the U.S. State Department in Washington, U.S., September 21, 2020. Patrick Semansky/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Monday slapped new sanctions on the Iranian defense ministry and others involved in Iran’s nuclear and weapons program to support its assertion that all U.N. sanctions against Tehran are now restored, a move disputed by key European allies as well as U.S. adversaries such as Russia and China.
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, flanked by President Donald Trump’s top national security aides, also told reporters the United States put new sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has deepened ties between Caracas and Tehran.
    The latest sanctions include a new executive order signed by Trump targeting those who buy or sell Iran conventional arms that was previously reported by Reuters.
    Acting under that order, the United States said it had imposed penalties on Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, Iran’s Defense Industries Organization and its Director, Mehrdad Akhlaghi-Ketabchi.
    The impetus behind the U.S. action is the impending expiry of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran and a desire to warn foreign actors – U.S. entities are already barred from such trade – that if they buy or sell arms to Iran they will face U.S. sanctions.
    Under the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran struck with six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – the U.N. conventional arms embargo is to set to expire on Oct. 18, shortly before the Nov. 3 U.S. election.
    “No matter who you are, if you violate the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions,” Pompeo told a news conference with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser.
    The United States says it has triggered a “snap back,” or resumption, of virtually all U.N. sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo, to come into effect at 8 p.m. on Saturday (0000 GMT Sunday).
    Other parties to the nuclear deal and most U.N. Security Council members have said they do not believe the United States has the right to reimpose the U.N. sanctions and that the U.S. move has no legal effect.
    Despite this opposition, Pompeo said the United States was not isolated.
    “The country that’s isolated today is not the United States but rather Iran,” he said.
    The United States also targeted six individuals and three entities associated with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) under a separate executive order and the U.S. Commerce Department added five individuals associated with the AEOI to its “Entity List,” imposing export control restrictions on them.
    The Treasury Department also sanctioned three individuals and four entities associated with Iran’s liquid propellant ballistic missile organization, the State Department said.
    The Trump administration has previously imposed sanctions on Maduro, Venezuela’s socialist leader, a rare action against a foreign head of state, accusing him of undermining democracy in the South American country.
    Washington and dozens of other countries back opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president.    But U.S. officials have said privately that Maduro’s continued grip on power – backed by the military as well as Russia, China, Cuba and Iran – has been a source of frustration for Trump.
    “For nearly two years, corrupt officials in Tehran have worked with the illegitimate regime in Venezuela to flout the U.N. arms embargo,” Pompeo said, providing no specifics.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali, Lisa Lambert, Arshad Mohammed, Humeyra Pamuk, Daphne Psaledakis, Matt Spetalnick and Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Timothy Gardner)

9/21/2020 Afghan Peace Negotiators Far Apart On Basic Issues Such As Ceasefire, Women’s Rights by Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Hamid Shalizi
FILE PHOTO: Delegates attend talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents
in Doha, Qatar September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari/File Photo
    KABUL (Reuters) – The Afghan government and Taliban militants remain far apart on even the most basic issues a week into talks meant to end two decades of war that has killed tens of thousands of people, diplomats and negotiators say.
    The chasm, not just on the predictably difficult problem of a ceasefire but on basic issues such as women’s rights, suggests major hurdles to any hopes of binding the wounds of a ravaged country.
    Despite the difficulties, the talks are the best hope for peace in years and come as a result of a February pact between the Taliban and the United States, allowing U.S. forces to withdraw in exchange for Taliban promises on terrorism.
    But the Taliban have refused to agree to a ceasefire and the war is grinding on.    At least 57 members of the security forces were killed in overnight clashes with the Taliban across Afghanistan.
    With all foreign troops due to be gone by May next year, pressure is building on the U.S.-backed government as it grapples with how it can share power with its implacable foe or contend with a likely Taliban push for military victory.
    Since the spotlight faded from the lavish Sept. 12 opening ceremony in a hotel ballroom in the Qatari capital, Doha, attended by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the two sides have only confirmed that they are diametrically opposed on virtually every issue.
    “We are talking to a side that is difficult and inflexible and therefore things are not moving forward,” said a senior negotiator on the Afghan government side.
    The two sides will have to tackle a diverse range of issues to secure peace, from the legitimacy of the Kabul government to women’s rights.
    “The first week has demonstrated how complex the talks will be in general, with the most crucial one being Afghanistan’s future political system,” said Graham Smith, an independent analyst tracking the talks, based in Afghanistan.
    Saudi Arabia said on Monday it supported the talks “and everything that would achieve security, stability and reduce violence in Afghanistan,” according to a statement on Saudi state news agency SPA.
    The Taliban emerged in the early 1990s from the chaos of factional strife between the Islamists who had battled occupying Soviet forces in the 1980s.
WISH FOR PEACE
    Founded by religious students, the Pakistan-backed fighters brought a welcome but harsh peace, along with contempt for women’s rights, blocking their education, forcing nearly all to quit work, restricting their movement and brutally enforcing a strict dress code.
    In recent months, the Taliban have said they will respect women’s rights under sharia but many educated woman who have come of age since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 for harbouring al Qaeda leader Osama bin laden have doubts.
    Women could be the first casualty of the talks, some activists fear, if the government allows the rolling back of their rights to appease the Taliban.
    Three diplomats overseeing the so-called intra-Afghan negotiations told Reuters the talks had bogged down over the finer points of Islamic law.
    The government and Taliban both follow the Hanafi school of jurisprudence within Sunni Islam, but their interpretations of sharia are “staunchly different,” said a senior Western diplomat in Doha who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the talks.
    This affects positions on key issues like punishments for crime, women’s rights and freedom of speech.
    Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman questioned what he said was the Taliban insistence on settling the issue of the Islamic system so early in the talks.
    “This doesn’t resonate well with our people’s wish for a lasting peace and the current political system of Afghanistan which is an Islamic Republic state and has legitimacy,” said the spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi.
    One of the diplomats trying to shepherd the talks said the focus was for now on keeping the negotiators at the table, talking over tea in the Gulf capital, 2,000 km (1,200 miles) from their war-scarred home.
    “They’re carving up their playing field,” the diplomat said.    “The challenge for us is to make sure that no one leaves the field.”
(Additional reporting by Rupam Jain in Mumbai, Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Ahmad Sultan in Jalalabad; additional reporting by Nayera Abdallah; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by William Mallard, Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)

9/22/2020 Exclusive: China Sharply Expands Mass Labor Program In Tibet by Cate Cadell
FILE PHOTO: A paramilitary policeman stands guard in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet
Autonomous Region, China November 17, 2015. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China is pushing growing numbers of Tibetan rural laborers off the land and into recently built military-style training centers where they are turned into factory workers, mirroring a program in the western Xinjiang region that rights groups have branded coercive labor.
    Beijing has set quotas for the mass transfer of rural laborers within Tibet and to other parts of China, according to over a hundred state media reports, policy documents from government bureaus in Tibet and procurement requests released between 2016-2020 and reviewed by Reuters.    The quota effort marks a rapid expansion of an initiative designed to provide loyal workers for Chinese industry.
    A notice posted to the website of Tibet’s regional government website last month said over half a million people were trained as part of the project in the first seven months of 2020 – around 15% of the region’s population. Of this total, almost 50,000 have been transferred into jobs within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China.    Many end up in low paid work, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture.
    “This is now, in my opinion, the strongest, most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods that we have seen almost since the Cultural Revolution” of 1966 to 1976, said Adrian Zenz, an independent Tibet and Xinjiang researcher, who compiled the core findings about the program.    These are detailed in a report released this week by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based institute that focuses on policy issues of strategic importance to the U.S.    “It’s a coercive lifestyle change from nomadism and farming to wage labor.”
    Reuters corroborated Zenz’s findings and found additional policy documents, company reports, procurement filings and state media reports that describe the program.
    In a statement to Reuters, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly denied the involvement of forced labor, and said China is a country with rule of law and that workers are voluntary and properly compensated.
    “What these people with ulterior motives are calling ‘forced labor’ simply does not exist.    We hope the international community will distinguish right from wrong, respect facts, and not be fooled by lies,” it said.
    Moving surplus rural labor into industry is a key part of China’s drive to boost the economy and reduce poverty. But in areas like Xinjiang and Tibet, with large ethnic populations and a history of unrest, rights groups say the programs include an outsized emphasis on ideological training.    And the government quotas and military-style management, they say, suggest the transfers have coercive elements.
    China seized control of Tibet after Chinese troops entered the region in 1950, in what Beijing calls a “peaceful liberation.”    Tibet has since become one of the most restricted and sensitive areas in the country.
    The Tibetan program is expanding as international pressure is growing over similar projects in Xinjiang, some of which have been linked to mass detention centers.    A United Nations report has estimated that around one million people in Xinjiang, mostly ethnic Uighurs, were detained in camps and subjected to ideological education.    China initially denied the existence of the camps, but has since said they are vocational and education centers, and that all the people have “graduated.”
    Reuters was unable to ascertain the conditions of the transferred Tibetan workers.    Foreign journalists are not permitted to enter the region, and other foreign citizens are only permitted on government-approved tours.
    In recent years, Xinjiang and Tibet have been the target of harsh policies in pursuit of what Chinese authorities call “stability maintenance.”    These policies are broadly aimed at quelling dissent, unrest or separatism and include restricting the travel of ethnic citizens to other parts of China and abroad, and tightening control over religious activities.
    In August, President Xi Jinping said China will again step up efforts against separatism in Tibet, where ethnic Tibetans make up around 90% of the population, according to census data.    Critics, spearheaded by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, accuse the Chinese authorities of carrying out “cultural genocide” in the region.    The 85-year-old Nobel Laureate has been based in Dharamsala, India, since he fled China in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese authorities.
ELIMINATE ‘LAZY PEOPLE’
    While there has been some evidence of military-style training and labor transfers in Tibet in the past, this new, enlarged program represents the first on a mass scale and the first to openly set quotas for transfers outside the region.
    A key element, described in multiple regional policy documents, involves sending officials into villages and townships to gather data on rural laborers and conduct education activities, aimed at building loyalty.
    State media described one such operation in villages near the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.    Officials carried out over a thousand anti-separatism education sessions, according to the state media report, “allowing the people of all ethnic groups to feel the care and concern of the Party Central Committee,” referring to China’s ruling Communist Party.
    The report said the sessions included songs, dances and sketches in “easy to understand language.”    Such “education” work took place prior to the rollout of the wider transfers this year.
    The model is similar to Xinjiang, and researchers say a key link between the two is the former Tibet Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who took over the same post in Xinjiang in 2016 and spearheaded the development of Xinjiang’s camp system.    The Xinjiang government, where Chen remains Party boss, did not respond to a request for comment.
    “In Tibet, he was doing a slightly lower level, under the radar, version of what was implemented in Xinjiang,” said Allen Carlson, Associate Professor in Cornell University’s Government Department.
    Around 70% of Tibet’s population is classified as rural, according to 2018 figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics.    This includes a large proportion of subsistence farmers, posing a challenge for China’s poverty alleviation program, which measures its success on levels of basic income.    China has pledged to eradicate rural poverty in the country by the end of 2020.
    “In order to cope with the increasing downward economic pressure on the employment income of rural workers, we will now increase the intensity of precision skills training … and carry out organized and large-scale transfer of employment across provinces, regions and cities,” said a working plan released by Tibet’s Human Resources and Social Security Department in July.    The plan included 2020 quotas for the program in different areas.
    Some of the policy documents and state media reports reviewed by Reuters make reference to unspecified punishments for officials who fail to meet their quotas.    One prefecture level implementation plan called for “strict reward and punishment measures” for officials.
    As in Xinjiang, private intermediaries, such as agents and companies, that organize transfers can receive subsidies set at 500 yuan ($74) for each laborer moved out of the region and 300 yuan ($44) for those placed within Tibet, according to regional and prefecture level notices.
    Officials have previously said that labor transfer programs in other parts of China are voluntary, and many of the Tibetan government documents also mention mechanisms to ensure laborers’ rights, but they don’t provide details.    Advocates, rights groups and researchers say it’s unlikely laborers are able to decline work placements, though they acknowledge that some may be voluntary.
    “These recent announcements dramatically and dangerously expand these programs, including ‘thought training’ with the government’s coordination, and represent a dangerous escalation,” said Matteo Mecacci, president of U.S. based advocacy group, the International Campaign for Tibet.
    The government documents reviewed by Reuters put a strong emphasis on ideological education to correct the “thinking concepts” of laborers.    “There is the assertion that minorities are low in discipline, that their minds must be changed, that they must be convinced to participate,” said Zenz, the Tibet-Xinjiang researcher based in Minnesota.
    One policy document, posted on the website of the Nagqu City government in Tibet’s east in December 2018, reveals early goals for the plan and sheds light on the approach.    It describes how officials visited villages to collect data on 57,800 laborers.    Their aim was to tackle “can’t do, don’t want to do and don’t dare to do” attitudes toward work, the document says.    It calls for unspecified measures to “effectively eliminate ‘lazy people.'
    A report released in January by the Tibetan arm of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a high-profile advisory body to the government, describes internal discussions on strategies to tackle the “mental poverty” of rural laborers, including sending teams of officials into villages to carry out education and “guide the masses to create a happy life with their hardworking hands.”
MILITARY DRILLS AND UNIFORMS
    Rural workers who are moved into vocational training centers receive ideological education – what China calls “military-style” training – according to multiple Tibetan regional and district-level policy documents describing the program in late 2019 and 2020.    The training emphasises strict discipline, and participants are required to perform military drills and dress in uniforms.
    It is not clear what proportion of participants in the labor transfer program undergo such military-style training.    But policy documents from Ngari, Xigatze and Shannan, three districts which account for around a third of Tibet’s population, call for the “vigorous promotion of military-style training.”    Region-wide policy notices also make reference to this training method.
    Small-scale versions of similar military-style training initiatives have existed in the region for over a decade, but construction of new facilities increased sharply in 2016, and recent policy documents call for more investment in such sites.    A review of satellite imagery and documents relating to over a dozen facilities in different districts in Tibet shows that some are built near to or within existing vocational centers.
    The policy documents describe a teaching program that combines skills education, legal education and “gratitude education,” designed to boost loyalty to the Party.
    James Leibold, professor at Australia’s La Trobe University who specializes in Tibet and Xinjiang, says there are different levels of military-style training, with some less restrictive than others, but that there is a focus on conformity.
    “Tibetans are seen as lazy, backward, slow or dirty, and so what they want to do is to get them marching to the same beat… That’s a big part of this type of military-style education.”
    In eastern Tibet’s Chamdo district, where some of the earliest military-style training programs emerged, state media images from 2016 show laborers lining up in drill formation in military fatigues.    In images published by state media in July this year, waitresses in military clothing are seen training at a vocational facility in the same district.    Pictures posted online from the “Chamdo Golden Sunshine Vocational Training School” show rows of basic white shed-like accommodation with blue roofs.    In one image, banners hanging on the wall behind a row of graduates say the labor transfer project is overseen by the local Human Resources and Social Security Department.
    The vocational skills learned by trainees include textiles, construction, agriculture and ethnic handicrafts.    One vocational center describes elements of training including “Mandarin language, legal training and political education.”    A separate regional policy document says the goal is to “gradually realize the transition from ‘I must work’ to ‘I want to work.'
    Regional and prefecture level policy documents place an emphasis on training batches of workers for specific companies or projects.    Rights groups say this on-demand approach increases the likelihood that the programs are coercive.
SUPPLY CHAIN
    Workers transferred under the programs can be difficult to trace, particularly those sent to other parts of China.    In similar mass transfers of Uighur people from Xinjiang, workers were discovered in the supply chains of 83 global brands, according to a report released by the The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).
    Researchers and rights groups say transfers from these regions pose a challenge because without access they can’t assess whether the practice constitutes forced labor, and transferred workers often work alongside non-transferred counterparts.
    Tibetan state media reports in July say that in 2020 some of the workers transferred outside of Tibet were sent to construction projects in Qinghai and Sichuan. Others transferred within Tibet were trained in textiles, security and agricultural production work.
    Regional Tibetan government policy notices and prefecture implementation plans provide local government offices with quotas for 2020, including for Tibetan workers sent to other parts of China. Larger districts are expected to supply more workers to other areas of the country – 1,000 from the Tibetan capital Lhasa, 1,400 from Xigaze, and 800 from Shannan.
    Reuters reviewed policy notices put out by Tibet and a dozen other provinces that have accepted Tibetan laborers.    These documents reveal that workers are often moved in groups and stay in collective accommodation.
    Local government documents inside Tibet and in three other provinces say workers remain in centralised accommodation after they are transferred, separated from other workers and under supervision.    One state media document, describing a transfer within the region, referred to it as a “point to point ‘nanny’ service.”
    The Tibetan Human Resources and Social Security Department noted in July that people are grouped into teams of 10 to 30.    They travel with team leaders and are managed by “employment liaison services.”    The department said the groups are tightly managed, especially when moving outside Tibet, where the liaison officers are responsible for carrying out “further education activities and reducing homesickness complexes.”    It said the government is responsible for caring for “left-behind women, children and the elderly.”
(reporting by Cate Cadell; editing by Janet McBride)

9/22/2020 HK Leader Says Cannot Demand Rights Protection For 12 Arrested By China by Jessie Pang and Donny Kwok
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a news conference in Hong Kong, China September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong has no legal basis to demand that any particular rights be extended to 12 Hong Kong people detained in China as they tried to flee by boat and they will have to face the law there, the city’s chief executive said on Tuesday.
    The 12 were arrested on Aug. 23 for illegal entry into mainland Chinese waters after setting off from Hong Kong in a boat bound for self-ruled Taiwan following a crackdown on pro-democracy activists in the former British colony.
    Their failed bid to flee to Taiwan has highlighted the fears that many people feel in semi-autonomous Hong Kong about what they see as China’s determination to end any push for greater democracy in the financial hub.
    Chinese police have said the 12 were suspected of illegal border crossing.    China’s foreign ministry has called them “separatists.”
    Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was asked at her weekly news conference if she could ensure that the 12 would be afforded human rights safeguards such as presumption of innocence, fair trial and legal representation.
    “We do not have the legal basis to do the things that you want us to do,” she said.
    Mainland authorities have said the legitimate rights of the 12 were being protected according to the law.
    China’s legal system is controlled by and loyal to the ruling Communist Party, meaning courts do not usually challenge party or government accusations.
    Lam said the 12 would have to face the law in mainland China before they could return to Hong Kong to face justice for any crimes committed at home.
    All 12 were suspected of crimes in Hong Kong related to anti-government protests that erupted last year.    Ten had been charged, released on bail and not allowed to leave the city.
    They are being detained in the neighbouring city of Shenzhen.
    Their fate is being closely watched in Hong Kong amid apprehension about Beijing’s greater control over the city especially since it imposed a national security law in June.
    Beijing and Hong Kong government say the law is aimed at tackling subversion, separatism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
    Critics say it undermines the special status the city was guaranteed when Britain handed it over to China under “one country, two systems” formula in 1997.
    Supporters of the law say it will bring stability and safeguard prosperity after a year of unrest.
(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Robert Birsel)

9/22/2020 Taiwan President Praises ‘Heroic’ Pilots Who Intercepted Chinese Jets by Yimou Lee
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attends an inauguration ceremony of a maintenance
centre for F-16 fighter jets, in Taichung, Taiwan August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    PENGHU, Taiwan (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen praised on Tuesday the “heroic performance” of air force pilots who have been intercepting Chinese jets that have approached the island, as Beijing steps up military pressure on democratic Taiwan.
    Tension between China and the island Beijing claims as sovereign Chinese territory have spiked to their highest in years, with Taiwanese fighters’ jets scrambling to intercept the Chinese aircraft last week.
    Visiting a major air force base on Penghu in the sensitive Taiwan Strait that divides the two sides, Tsai told pilots and engineers she was aware of their “heroic performance” when intercepting and driving away Chinese aircraft.
    “I have a lot of confidence in you.    As soldiers of the Republic of China, how could we let enemies strut around in our own airspace?” she said, using Taiwan’s formal name.
    “I’m aware that facing the provocative behaviour of the communist planes that have encircled the island and damaged regional peace in recent days, your duty at the front line of the airspace in Penghu must be even heavier.”
    The base, now home to F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF) which first entered service in 1997, is at the front line of Taiwan’s response to Chinese military intrusions.
    Wang Chia-chu, one of the senior officers of the “Heavenly Colt” IDF squadron, told Reuters there is just five minutes’ time to scramble fighters once Chinese aircraft are spotted.
    “We will defend our airspace in real time as long as there’s a threat,” Wang said.
    Another senior officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the Penghu-based IDFs are now scrambling “almost every day” as tension run high.
    The air force also put on display its new Wan Chien air-to-ground cruise missiles that entered service in 2018 and can be fired from IDFs at targets about 200 km (125 miles) away, putting Chinese facilities or approaching ships in their sights.
    Unusually, Chinese aircraft last week breached the mid line of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial barrier for combat aircraft of both sides, although they have not flown over mainland Taiwan.
    On Monday, China’s foreign ministry said the line did not exist, provoking condemnation from Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
    In Taipei on Tuesday, Wu called the line an important “symbol” for avoiding military clashes, and urged other countries to condemn China.
    “We demand the international community strongly condemns China’s words and actions and demand the Chinese government stops everything that it has been doing,” he added.
    China has been angered by stepped-up U.S. support for democratic Taiwan, including a visit to Taipei last week by U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach.
    Taiwanese fighters have scrambled many times this year to intercept Chinese aircraft.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Writing and additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

9/22/2020 New Zealand’s Ardern Seen Cruising To Victory In Election by Praveen Menon
New Zealand Labour leader Jacinda Ardern speaks to the press after leader of New Zealand First party Winston Peters
announced his support for her party in Wellington, New Zealand, October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Charlotte Greenfield
    WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s ruling Labour Party has lost some support since July as the coronavirus resurged in Auckland, but it is still set to win the upcoming general election on Oct 17 comfortably, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday.
    The 1News-Colmar Brunton poll showed support for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s party, which is seeking a second term in office, at 48%, down 5 percentage points since the last poll in late July.
    The opposition National party also lost 1 percentage point taking it to 31%, under newly elected leader Judith Collins.
    The results mean Labour would get 62 seats, and can govern alone without any coalition.
    Small parties like the Green Party got 6% support while the ACT New Zealand surprised with 7% support.    But populist New Zealand First Party, a kingmaker in the last election, dropped to 2%, which means it would not get into parliament if it does not win an electorate seat.
    All recent polls have pointed to a comfortable victory for Ardern, who has won global praise for her leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.
    Ardern and Collins will face each other in the first live TV debate for the election later on Tuesday.
    Ardern has called it a ‘COVID election’ and focused her campaign on highlighting the government’s success is tackling the health and economic challenges thrown up by the pandemic.
    The 40-year-old, who became the world’s youngest female leader after unexpectedly winning power in 2017, holds huge appeal domestically and globally where she has garnered praise for her views on issues such as women’s rights, climate change and diversity.
    Her response to last year’s terror attack by a white supremacist, a fatal volcanic eruption and the recent COVID-19 have helped boost her party’s standing.
    Ardern’s stardom, however, masks some of the domestic issues that the ruling coalition has failed to tackle including a shortage of affordable housing, child poverty, and tax reforms.
    Collins, popularly known as ‘Crusher Collins’, will look to highlight these shortcomings.    The 61-year-old, who became National Party’s third leader this year, has promised massive infrastructure spending, reduced taxes and a boost to the economy.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/22/2020 As Afghanistan Peace Talks Stutter, U.S. Says Violence Levels Too High by Idrees Ali and Patricia Zengerle
FILE PHOTO: Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan is seen during talks between the
Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The level of violence in Afghanistan is unacceptably high and the United States expects further setbacks during talks, the Special Representative for Afghanistan said on Tuesday, as the Afghan government and Taliban remain far apart on even the most basic issues 10 days into talks meant to end two decades of war.
    “By any measure, current levels of violence are too high,” U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told a House of Representatives hearing.
    “We know that reductions are possible,” Khalilzad said.
    Despite the difficulties, the talks are the best hope for peace in years and come as a result of a February pact between the Taliban and United States, allowing U.S. forces to withdraw in exchange for Taliban promises on terrorism.
    But the militant group has refused to agree to a ceasefire and the war is grinding on.    At least 57 members of the security forces have been killed in recent days in clashes across Afghanistan.
    With all foreign troops due to be gone by May 2021, pressure is building on the U.S.-backed government in Kabul as it grapples with how to share power with its implacable foe or contend with a likely Taliban push for military victory.
    Since the spotlight faded from the lavish Sept. 12 opening ceremony in the Qatari capital, Doha, attended by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the two sides have only confirmed that they are diametrically opposed on virtually every issue.
    “While we have reasons to be hopeful, we are under no illusions about the challenges ahead. … We expect that there will be setbacks and obstacles,” Khalilzad said.
    The United States is expected to reduce troop levels to 4,000 to 5,000 in the coming months and will look at further reductions based on conditions.
    David Helvey, who is performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, told the subcommittee hearing focusing on national security the Pentagon was carrying out “prudent planning” to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 2021 if conditions were met.
    He added that for now Defense Secretary Mark Esper had not issued any orders to go below 4,000 troops.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

9/22/2020 Rouhani Says U.S. Can Impose Neither Negotiations Nor War On Iran by Parisa Hafezi
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s president told the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that the United States could impose “neither negotiations nor war” on the Islamic Republic amid heightened tension between the longtime foes over Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.
    “Iran is not a bargaining chip in U.S. elections and domestic policy … Any U.S. administration after the upcoming (U.S.) elections will have no choice but to surrender to the resilience of the Iranian nation,” Hassan Rouhani told the annual U.N. gathering in a video message.
    The U.S.-Iranian confrontation has intensified since 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and unilaterally reimposed sanctions that have hobbled the Islamic Republic’s economy.
    Trump wants a broader agreement with Tehran’s clerical rulers that would further restrict Iran’s nuclear programme, halt its ballistic missile development work and end its support for proxy forces around the Middle East.
    Iran has refused to hold talks with the United States unless Washington lifts sanctions on Tehran and returns to the original agreement.    In retaliation for U.S. pressure, Tehran has scaled back compliance with nuclear capacity limits set by the deal.
    In his U.N. address earlier on Tuesday, Trump said: “We withdrew from the terrible Iran nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.”    Iran denies supporting terrorism.
    The Trump administration on Monday slapped new sanctions on Iran to support the U.S. assertion that all United Nations sanctions against Tehran that were lifted under the 2015 agreement are now reinstated.
    That move was rejected by key European allies as well as U.S. adversaries such as Russia and China who are all parties to the nuclear accord.
    “This is a victory not just for Iran, but for the global community – during the transitional international order in the post-Western world – that an aspirant to hegemony is humiliated in such self-created isolation,” Rouhani said, referring to the Trump administration.
    In his address to the General Assembly, French President Emmanuel Macron said the Trump’s administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran had so far failed. Macron dismissed U.S. efforts to restore U.N. sanctions against Tehran as Washington had already left the nuclear deal.
(This story has been refiled to add dropped word “would” in paragraph 4)
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/22/2020 France’s Macron Says U.S. Maximum Pressure On Iran Not Working
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a protective face mask, welcomes Slovenian President Borut Pahor
(not seen) before a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    PARIS (Reuters) – The United States’ maximum pressure campaign on Iran has so far failed, France’s president said on Tuesday, and he dismissed U.S. efforts to restore U.N. sanctions against Tehran because Washington had left the 2015 nuclear deal.
    “The maximum pressure strategy, which has been under way for several years, has not at this stage made it possible to end Iran’s destabilising activities or to ensure that it will not be able to acquire nuclear weapons,” Emmanuel Macron said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
    “This is why France, along with its German and British partners, will maintain its demand for the full implementation of the 2015 Vienna Agreement and will not accept the violations committed by Iran.”
(Reporting by John Irish and Michel Rose; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/22/2020 South Korea’s Moon Proposes Regional Initiative To Battle COVID-19, Engage North Korea by Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers his speech during Youth Day at the
Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, September 19, 2020. Yonhap via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in called on Tuesday for a regional infectious disease control and public health initiative involving China, Japan, Mongolia, and North Korea to tackle health crises and lay the foundation for peace with Pyongyang.
    In a video message to the United Nations General Assembly, Moon said collective protection of life and safety would lay the groundwork for North Korea to have its security guaranteed by engaging with the international community.
    “In the face of the COVID-19 crisis that poses a greater threat to humanity than a war, we came to be acutely reminded that the safety of neighbouring countries is directly linked to that of our own,” Moon said, according to an English translation of his prepared remarks distributed by his office.
    Moon proposed launching a “Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative for Infectious Disease Control and Public Health,” but did not provide details.
    “It is not only Korea’s response to COVID-19 but also the invaluable lessons Korea will be gaining from institutionalizing peace that Korea wishes to share with the rest of the world,” he said.
    South Korea’s aggressive testing and tracing efforts during the coronavirus outbreak have been praised internationally.    North Korea has said it has no confirmed cases, though some U.S. officials have cast doubt on that claim.
    As part of his election pledges, Moon proposed building a regional cooperative mechanism in Northeast Asia to defuse military tensions and foster joint responses in areas of common interest, including disease prevention, disaster response and cybersecurity.
    Moon this year also expressed his willingness to provide help to North Korea to fight the coronavirus outbreak, calling health issues a top priority in inter-Korean cooperation, but Pyongyang has said it would not receive outside aid and shut the border tighter.
    North Korea has rejected cooperation with South Korea and ridiculed previous proposals after denuclearisation talks with the United States stalled, scuttling lofty goals for inter-Korean projects made at a series of summit between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
(Reporting by Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

9/23/2020 Australia’s Virus Hotspot May Speed Up Lifting Curbs As Cases Fall by Sonali Paul and Renju Jose
FILE PHOTO: Walkers wear protective face masks at St Kilda pier in Melbourne after it became the first city in Australia to enforce mask-wearing
in public as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    MELBOURNE/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria is considering easing curbs sooner than previously flagged, the state’s premier said on Wednesday, as the two-week average of new infections in the city of Melbourne dropped below 30.
    Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city, has been the epicentre of the country’s second wave of COVID-19.    The city has been under a hard lockdown, including a nightly curfew, since Aug. 2.
    The state reported 15 new cases and five deaths on Wednesday.
    The 14-day average in Melbourne dropped below the 30-50 band which the state set as a precondition for allowing around 100,000 people to return to work in construction, manufacturing, warehouses and child care from Sept. 28.
    “We are winning this battle and we will prevail. It’s just a matter of us staying the course — not letting our frustration get the better of us,” state premier Daniel Andrews told reporters.
    Andrews said if the average holds below 30 ahead of this Sunday’s review of restrictions, it was possible further curbs could be eased, but he declined to say what those might be.
    “We don’t want to do something that might seem quite small but could present a significant challenge to us in a couple of weeks’ time,” he said.
    The state is only due to lift a nightly curfew in Melbourne and restrictions on people leaving home for more than two hours a day and beyond a 5 km (3-mile) range after Oct. 25, by when the state wants the two-week average of new cases to drop to five.
    Victoria accounts for 75% of the country’s nearly 27,000 cases and 90% of its 859 deaths since the pandemic began.
    Australia’s biggest state, New South Wales, reported six new cases on Wednesday, while South Australia reported one — all returned travellers in quarantine.
    “These are all really encouraging signs … But we mustn’t drop our game here,” Australia’s chief nursing officer Alison McMillan said, pointing to a surge in cases in Britain.
(Reporting by Renju Jose and Sonali Paul; Editing by Sandra Maler and Michael Perry)

9/23/2020 India’s Coronavirus Infections Surge Again After Dip by Alasdair Pal
A woman sits with her child inside a quarantine centre for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients amidst the spread
of the disease at an indoor sports complex in New Delhi, India, September 22, 2020. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s coronavirus infections surged again on Wednesday, a day after falling to their lowest figure in almost a month.
    In the last 24 hours, there were 83,347 new cases, with 1,085 deaths, federal health data showed.
    India, with a population of about 1.4 billion, is consistently reporting the world’s highest daily tally of infections, as it grapples with overstretched health services in the effort to control the pandemic.
    Its 5.6 million infections rank second only to the United States, and more than 90,000 people have died.
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

9/23/2020 India Building Collapse Toll Climbs To 35, Search And Rescue Efforts Continue
FILE PHOTO: Police officers watch rescue operations after a three-storey building collapsed in Bhiwandi,
on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, September, 21 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – Rescue workers battled rain and cramped conditions to scour through rubble and look for possible survivors as the toll from an apartment building collapse on the outskirts of Mumbai rose to 35, a senior government official said on Wednesday.
    “It’s been more than three days, so we don’t know if there are any survivors any more, but we are not losing hope,” Satya Pradhan, the head of the National Disaster Response Force, told Reuters.
    At least eight people are still missing and rescue personnel are clearing debris to look for them, said Pradhan.
    The building, a three-storey structure in a narrow alley of the industrial town of Bhiwandi, on the north-east outskirts of Mumbai, collapsed early on Monday.
    Rescue work has been hampered by rain and a narrow entrance to the alley, which prevented heavy equipment from being brought in to clear debris.
    Officials are still investigating the cause of the collapse of the structure that housed 54 apartments.
    Such disasters are commonplace in India during the monsoon season, as the torrential rains can destabilise old and often illegally constructed buildings.
    This week’s collapse however, is one of the worst such incidents in recent years around Mumbai.
    Last month, more than a dozen people were killed when a building collapsed in the industrial town of Mahad, 165 km (100 miles) south of Mumbai.
    In 2013, more than 120 people were killed in two separate building collapses around Mumbai.
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar)

9/23/2020 Malaysia Opposition Leader Anwar Says Seeking To Form New Government
FILE PHOTO: Malaysia's politician Anwar Ibrahim arrives for a meeting in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng
    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said on Wednesday he has secured a “strong majority” from lawmakers in order to form a new government and was seeking an audience with the king to formalise his appointment as prime minister.
    Anwar, who will need the king’s assent to replace current premier Muhyiddin Yassin, told a news conference his support from lawmakers “means that the administration of Muhyiddin has fallen.”
    The opposition leader’s claim comes less than seven months after Muhyiddin clinched the premiership following political turmoil that saw the collapse of the previous administration under Mahathir Mohamad.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Ed Davies)

9/23/2020 In The Name Of The Mother: Afghan Woman Wins Recognition, Sparks Taliban Opposition by Orooj Hakimi and Storay Karimi
FILE PHOTO: Afghan women attend a consultative grand assembly, known as Loya Jirga, in Kabul, Afghanistan April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
    HERAT/KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan woman Laleh Osmany has been campaigning for years for a change to the age-old custom of officially identifying people by the names of their fathers, calling for mothers’ names to be included on identity cards.
    But her “Where Is My Name?” campaign, which finally brought a change in the law last week, has stirred heated debate in the conservative Muslim country where for some, speaking a woman’s name in public is taboo.
    The Taliban, who have just begun power-sharing talks with the Afghan government that could see them return to rule in some capacity, have condemned the reform in one of the first concrete stances they have revealed on women’s rights as they engage in the peace process.
    “From the beginning of this campaign until now, we’ve encountered insults, humiliation, threats,” said Osmany, a 28-year old religious studies graduate.
    For Osmany and many other Afghan women, a mother’s name beside the father’s on identity cards represents the rightful recognition of women in society.
    “This right has been given to us by Islam … we want to take back our rights.”
    Osmany’s campaign, which she launched on social media in 2017, paid off last week when President Ashraf Ghani signed an amendment that would recognise mothers equally with fathers on identification cards.
    But along with the recognition from the president and the support of many woman, the reform has provoked anger.
    “The inclusion of the mother’s name on electronic IDs would be a disgrace and a dishonour for Afghans,” Said Akbar Agha, who served as an official during Taliban rule, told a gathering to discuss reconciliation in the city of Herat last week.
‘CHANGE IS DIFFICULT’
    Women’s rights have improved significantly since the hardline Taliban were forced from power in 2001.
    But concern is growing about the prospects for sustaining that progress with the possibility of a return of the Islamist group to a role in government.
    The Taliban say they have changed and would allow education for girls and women to work outside the home, in some circumstances.
    But when pushed for details such as on whether women would be required to wear a face covering or work in jobs alongside men, they say the rights of women would be decided according to Islamic sharia, though without specifying how.
    Many women harbour deep mistrust and doubt the sincerity of reassuring Taliban comments.
    Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that the group opposed putting the names of mothers on identify cards.
    “From a religious point of view, the names of women are among the prohibitions that cannot be mentioned anywhere,” Mujahid told Reuters.
    “Mentioning the names of mothers, wives, sisters and daughters is not culturally tolerable in our society,” he said.
    Osmany said she was disappointed by the Taliban position but would not stop fighting for the recognition of women even though she was worried about her safety and that of her colleagues.
    “We’re not doing anything wrong, so we’ll continue this struggle so that we can revive the identity of women,” she said.
    “We know change is difficult, it’s difficult to change society but when we start working, we must not be afraid of obstacles and we should never give up.”
(Reporting by Orooj Hakimi in Kabul and Storay Karimi in Herat; wrting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Robert Birsel)

9/23/2020 Pompeo Warns U.S. Politicians To Be Alert To Chinese ‘Influence And Espionage’ by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the U.S. State
Department in Washington, U.S., September 21, 2020. Patrick Semansky/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday warned U.S. politicians at the state and local level to be vigilant around Chinese diplomats who he said could be trying to woo them as part of Beijing’s propaganda and espionage campaign.
    Speaking in the Wisconsin state capitol, Pompeo said the State Department was reviewing the activities of the U.S.-China Friendship Association and the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification over suspicions they are trying to influence U.S. schools, business groups and local politicians.
    The two groups are linked to China’s United Front Work Department, an organ of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, he said.
    “Know that when you are approached by a Chinese diplomat, it is likely not in the spirit of cooperation or friendship,” Pompeo said, warning of the Chinese Communist Party’s “influence and espionage campaigns” even at the municipal level.
    “The federal government can’t police every bit of this predatory and coercive behavior.    We need your help…Protecting American interests requires vigilance, vigilance that starts with you – and all state legislators, regardless of party,” he said.
    The latest swipe at Beijing comes in the run-up to the November election, in which U.S. President Donald Trump has made a tough approach to China an important foreign policy platform.    Wisconsin is a key battleground state in the polls.
    Pompeo’s speech triggered an outcry from Democratic lawmakers who accused him of using taxpayer money to solidify political support for Trump and, potentially, for himself as he is widely seen as harboring presidential ambitions for 2024.
CONSIDERING LANGUAGE ON XINJIANG
    Pompeo also asked Wisconsin legislators to boost intellectual property protections and investment screening, and encouraged business people to ignore China’s threats over engaging with Taiwan, the democratic island Beijing claims as sovereign Chinese territory.
    Ties between China and the United States are at the lowest point in decades, with the world’s top two economies at loggerheads over issues ranging from China’s handling of the coronavirus to trade rivalries, new national security legislation in Hong Kong and tensions in the South China Sea.
    He said Trump administration was carefully calibrating its language on how to describe what has been happening in China’s western Xinjiang region, where the United Nations cites credible reports as saying 1 million Muslims held in camps have been put to work.
    “When the United States speaks about crimes against humanity or genocide … we’ve got to be very careful and very precise because it carries an enormous weight,” Pompeo said.
    Politico in August reported that the administration was considering to formally label China’s treatment in Xinjiang as a “genocide.”    China has rejected allegations of forced labor in Xinjiang and criticized the United States for meddling in its internal affairs.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Marguerita Choy; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chris Reese and Sonya Hepinstall)

9/23/2020 Pompeo Says U.S. Working On Language For China’s Treatment Of Muslims In Xinjiang
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the U.S.
State Department in Washington, U.S., September 21, 2020. Patrick Semansky/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is considering the language it will use to describe what is happening in China’s western Xinjiang region, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, when asked if Washington will make an “atrocity determination” regarding Beijing’s treatment of Muslims there.
    “We are considering the language we will use, how we’ll describe it.    When the United States speaks about crimes against humanity or genocide … we’ve got to be very careful and very precise because it carries an enormous weight,” Pompeo said, speaking at the Wisconsin State Capitol.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

9/24/2020 North Korean Troops Killed Missing South Korean Official, Burned Body, Seoul Says by Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters on top of a 160-metre tower in North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong,
in this picture taken from the Tae Sung freedom village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL),
inside the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean troops shot dead a South Korean fisheries official who went missing earlier this week, before dousing his body in oil and setting it on fire in what was likely an effort to prevent a coronavirus outbreak, South Korea’s military said on Thursday.
    South Korea’s military said evidence suggested the man was attempting to defect to the North when he was reported missing from a fisheries boat on Monday about 10 km (6 miles) south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a disputed demarcation of military control that acts as the de facto maritime boundary between the two Koreas.
    Graphic: South Korea says official shot by North – https://graphics.reuters.com/NORTHKOREA-SOUTHKOREA/OFFICIAL/nmopawwqlpa/chart.png
    The exact reason the 47-year-old official was shot is not known but North Korean troops appear to have been acting under anti-coronavirus orders, South Korea’s military said.
    The presidential Blue House’s national security office said the killing was a “crime against humanity,” and called on North Korea to apologise and put measures in place to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents in the future.
    Citing intelligence sources, the military said the unidentified man appeared to have been questioned at sea, north of the NLL and about 38 km (24 miles) from where he went missing, before he was executed on an “order from a superior authority.”    Troops in gas masks then doused the body in oil and set it on fire.
    The military said it sent a message on Wednesday to the North through the land border demanding explanations, but has not received any response yet.
    “Our military strongly condemns such an atrocity, and strongly demands North Korea provide explanations and punish those who are responsible,” General Ahn Young-ho, who is in charge of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a briefing.
CORONAVIRUS FEARS
    The U.S. military commander in South Korea said this month that North Korean troops had been given “shoot-to-kill orders” to prevent the coronavirus entering the country.
    Such strict enforcement of those orders may be an attempt to prevent an outbreak from disrupting a major military parade expected to be held on Oct. 10 when the country commemorates the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, said Chad O’Carroll, CEO of Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea.
    “In many ways, this parade is a huge potential viral risk,” he said in a post on Twitter.    “And it seems paranoia about that risk is at play (with) shoot-to-kill rules.”
    In July, a man who had defected to South Korea three years ago triggered a coronavirus scare when he crossed back over the heavily monitored border into North Korea, which says it has had no cases of the disease.
    His arrival prompted North Korean officials to lock down a border city and quarantine thousands of people over fears he may have had the coronavirus, though the World Health Organization later said his test results were inconclusive.
    Last week, South Korean police arrested a defector who they said had tried to return to North Korea by breaking into a military training site in South Korea’s border town of Cheorwon.
(Reporting by Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin; additional reporting by Sangmi Cha.; Editing by Sam Holmes and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/24/2020 A Hong Kong Protester’s Farewell Note And Failed Escape by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret
FILE PHOTO: Mrs Wong (C), wife of Wong Wai Yin, one of the twelve Hong Kong detained activists, apprehended as they reportedly sailed to Taiwan for political
asylum, arrives to attend a news conference in Hong Kong, China September 12, 2020. Picture taken September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Wong Wai-yin’s wife feared the worst after reading his short farewell letter.
    “I am sorry and thanks for accompanying me throughout the years,” the hand-written note found on a desk at their home read.    “I’m sorry that I can’t walk with you anymore… Please take care of yourselves.”
    Wong, 30, an unemployed dock mechanic facing criminal charges relating to his participation in the protests that roiled Hong Kong last year, had scribbled his message to his wife and his mother on a page torn from a notebook.
    He apologised for not repairing their ramshackle house before he departed.    “I still haven’t had the time to fix the rooftop of our home, but I’m afraid I won’t have such a chance anymore,” he wrote.
    Wong’s wife and mother set out on a desperate search to find him, worried he had killed himself, they told Reuters.
    By the time they read his note, Wong was already in the custody of Chinese authorities after a failed attempt to flee by boat the night before to Taiwan with 11 other activists all looking to avoid prosecutions related to the protests.
    “When I heard that he’s still alive, my heart lit up,” said Wong’s wife, who shared parts of her husband’s letter with Reuters.    She said the note was taken by police as evidence, without any further explanation.    Hong Kong police declined to answer Reuters’ questions on its investigation.
    “But soon I became very nervous,” Wong’s wife said, after learning her husband had been detained in mainland China, fearing he would not receive fair treatment there.    She said she often wakes up from nightmares.    Both she and her mother asked not to be identified fully because of the sensitivity of the matter.
    The families of some of the 12 activists now under arrest in China, including a 16-year-old, held a news conference on Sept. 12, masked and hooded to avoid identification. Appearing with two Hong Kong lawmakers, they made a plea to Chinese authorities to allow the detainees to contact family members and be represented by independent lawyers.
    China’s foreign ministry, which described the people as separatists, said they have been detained in Shenzhen, the mainland city that shares a border with the northern part of Hong Kong, for illegally crossing into Chinese waters.    The ministry referred questions on the matter to the Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau, which did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
    Florence Wong, a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong government’s Security Bureau, said Hong Kong “respects and does not interfere with the enforcement actions of other jurisdictions,” in response to questions from Reuters about the people being held.    She said Hong Kong would ask for the return of the 12 detainees after they have been dealt with by China.
    Carrie Lam, the city’s leader, told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday that the detainees must face justice in China and Hong Kong had no legal basis to demand any particular rights such as presumption of innocence, fair trial or legal representation.
    The incident has become another flashpoint in U.S.-China relations and fuelled tension between Beijing and Taiwan.    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month that the United States was deeply concerned about the case, saying the detainees had been denied access to lawyers of their choice.
    Pompeo and other international critics say China’s imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong in June has threatened established civil liberties and rule of law in the former British colony.
    China says the law, which punishes anything it deems to be subversion, terrorism, collusion with foreign forces or an attempt to separate Hong Kong from China with up to life in prison, was needed to bring stability back to the financial hub after a year of mass anti-China protests.
    Ten of the 12 arrested after the failed attempt to flee by speedboat to Taiwan had faced charges including rioting, arson and police assault.    One stood accused of colluding with foreign forces under the new law.
    Wong had been arrested on Jan. 16 for allegedly making explosive substances.    He was only one of hundreds of Hong Kong democracy activists and protesters who have left the city by sea and air over the past year or so.
    He joined a group of 10 other men and one woman before dawn on Aug. 23 to board a speedboat berthed in a quiet fishing village before setting off for Taiwan, around 600 km (375 miles) away.    If weather conditions are good, the trip can be completed in less than a day.
    On the way, Wong and the others were apprehended by a Chinese coastguard vessel and sent to a detention centre in Shenzhen, Chinese authorities said.
‘I WILL WAIT FOR HIM’
    Wong met his wife, originally from mainland China, during a holiday in Vietnam in 2014.    They moved into a modest village house in Hong Kong looking onto fields.    But they were happy, she said.
    Before Wong’s arrest in January, their life was simple, she said. They dreamt of finally going on a honeymoon in Japan, reshooting their wedding photos and having a child after saving up enough.    They planned to buy a flat and retire in mainland China.
    Police said Wong was arrested after a raid on his home found a beaker, a measuring cup, chemicals and electronic equipment they suspected could be used for producing explosives.    He has been charged with making explosives, which if done with intent to endanger life, carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. Neither Wong nor his wife has commented publicly on the charge.
    He was released on bail on Feb. 14.    The High Court ordered surveillance cameras to be installed at Wong’s home.    A date had not been set for his trial.
    After Wong’s arrest, his mother said they stopped meeting relatives and friends, worrying they would cause them trouble by association.
    When Wong fled and skipped bail, $96,000 was confiscated by the court together with fees his wife said she had set aside to hire an independent lawyer.    Half of the family’s savings vanished, his wife added.
    Hong Kong police confirmed the charge Wong faces, but declined to answer any further questions from Reuters on the case.
    Wong’s wife said she has received no official information about her husband except an Aug. 28 letter from Hong Kong police notifying the family he faced criminal prosecution in China.    Hong Kong authorities said the 12 would be represented by mainland lawyers chosen by the detainees from a list given to them by Chinese authorities.
    Wong’s wife said the mainland lawyer she hired to represent her husband was not allowed to meet him.    That lawyer declined to comment to Reuters, saying authorities warned him his lawyer’s licence would be revoked if he conducted media interviews.
    “He doesn’t need to worry about us.    I will safeguard this family with his mother,” Wong’s wife told Reuters.    “I will wait for him for the rest of my life.”
(Reporting by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret in Hong Kong; Additional reporting by David Kirton in Shenzhen; Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Bill Rigby)

9/24/2020 Hong Kong Democracy Activist Joshua Wong Arrested For 2019 Illegal Assembly
FILE PHOTO: Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong leaves the High Court after hearing the result of a judicial review
over the disqualification from district elections in Hong Kong, China September 23, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong on Thursday for participating in an unauthorised assembly in October 2019 and violating the city’s anti-mask law, according to a post on his official Twitter account.
    Wong’s latest arrest adds to several unlawful assembly charges or suspected offences he and other activists are facing related to last year’s pro-democracy protests, which prompted Beijing to impose a sweeping national security law on June 30.
    Hong Kong police confirmed they arrested two men, aged 23 and 74, on Thursday for illegal assembly on Oct 5, 2019.
    The arrest of Wong, aged 23, comes around 6 weeks after media tycoon Jimmy Lai was detained on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces.
    Wong had been a frequent visitor to Washington where he appealed to the U.S. Congress to support Hong Kong’s democracy movement and counter Beijing’s tightening grip over the global financial hub.    His visits drew the wrath of Beijing, which says he is a “black hand” of foreign forces.
    Wong disbanded his pro-democracy group Demosisto in June, just hours after China’s parliament passed national security law for Hong Kong, bypassing the city’s local legislature, a move widely criticised by Western governments.
    His long-time colleague, Agnes Chow, and two other activists were also among 10 people police arrested in August on suspicion of violating the new law.
    The new law punishes anything China considers as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison.
    Wong was just 17 years old when he became the face of the 2014 student-led Umbrella Movement democracy protests, but he was not a leading figure of the often violent unrest that shook the semi-autonomous former British colony last year.
    An anti-mask law was introduced last year in a bid to help police identify the protesters they suspected of committing crimes and it is facing a challenge in court.    In the meantime, the Hong Kong government has made face masks mandatory in most circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic.
(Additional reporting by Donny Kwok; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Kim Coghill)

9/24/2020 Myanmar’s ‘Maximum Containment’ COVID Plan Pushed To Brink As Virus Surges by Shoon Naing
FILE PHOTO: Men construct a barricade blocking off their street to prevent the spread of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Yangon, Myanmar, September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin
    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar has quarantined tens of thousands of people to prevent a coronavirus outbreak from overwhelming its fragile healthcare system but public health experts and doctors say the strategy is on the brink of collapse as infections surge.
    The Southeast Asian nation is housing more than 45,000 people, including COVID-19 patients as well as those yet to be tested, their close contacts and returning migrant workers, in buildings from schools and monasteries to government offices and tower blocks, mostly run by volunteers.
    Even those with no symptoms or mild symptoms are hospitalised or quarantined, part of an ambitious plan to stop the virus swamping a chronically underfunded health system.
    But the “maximum containment” strategy pursued by Myanmar since its first cases were confirmed in March could backfire if overburdened facilities put people off quarantine altogether, public health expert Kyaw San Wai told Reuters.
    “This strategy was implementable up to mid-August given Myanmar’s low caseloads but as case numbers increased dramatically from late August, especially in Yangon, this approach quickly pushed both the health centres and quarantine centres to the brink,” he said.
    Officials from the health ministry did not answer calls seeking comment.
    After weeks without a local transmission, Myanmar reported an outbreak in the western Rakhine state in mid-August that has since spread across the country.
    On Thursday, authorities reported 535 new infections and three deaths, making a total of 7,827 cases and 133 deaths.
    While some other Asian countries have pursued a strict containment strategy, elsewhere only more serious cases have been treated in hospital while others isolate at home.
    “In other countries, they let people stay home and hospitalise them only if they are in a serious condition,” said Dr Kaung Myat Soe, chief of a temporary hospital in the commercial capital of Yangon.
    “In this country … we worry about young children or old people becoming casualties so we isolate them.”
    The number of people quarantined has more than doubled from about 19,000 in August to more than 45,000 as of Sept. 21, according to Ministry of Health data.
    After decades of neglect under military rule, Myanmar’s health system has been ranked among the world’s weakest.
    As of early this year, there were 330 intensive care beds for the 54 million population.    The World Health Organization in 2018 put the number of doctors at 6.7 per 10,000 people.
    Authorities are racing to build and requisition more facilities to accommodate the numbers. [L4N2GD1K8]
THREE NIGHTS IN HELL
    Stories of facilities without electricity or water and positive patients forced to share rooms with untested people have been reported in the media. [L4N2GD1K8]
    “The rush to mobilise new sites mean that these new quarantine centres are under-equipped to handle the massive deluge of people, which in turn is starting to undermine the maximum quarantine strategy as people become less inclined to undergo the quarantine process,” said Kyaw San Wai.
    A Yangon resident who asked not to be identified said during her stay in hospital with mild COVID symptoms she was not allowed to go to the bathroom.    Instead, she and a roommate were supplied with plastic bags.
    “My three nights and two days in hospital were hell,” said the woman, who then moved to a hotel.
    Myanmar has a history of community mobilisation at times of crisis and government leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the public to get behind the effort to fight the virus.
    People running quarantine centres in the Irrawaddy delta region told Reuters they depended on donations for items like food and protective equipment.
    “Without the help of donors things would be terrible,” said Dr Ko Ko Lin, who volunteers at a centre.
(Reporting by Shoon Naing. Additional reporting by Thu Thu Aung and Poppy McPherson. Writing by Poppy McPherson)

9/24/2020 In Conservative Kandahar, New Gym Creates Safe Space For Afghan Women
Afghan women exercise in a fitness gym in Kandahar, Afghanistan September 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ismail Sameem
    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) – In Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar, rights activist Maryam Durani has found a fresh outlet for her decades of advocacy – a new fitness centre for women.
    Durani, 36, is a fierce campaigner for women’s rights in the conservative stronghold where the Islamist Taliban militant group have major sway and take a conservative stance on the position of women, who mostly wear the burqa in public.
    She runs a radio station for women, has served on the provincial council and was presented with the International Women of Courage Award by Michelle Obama for in 2012.    Last year, Durani switched tack to open a female-only gym, which draws about 50 women attend each day.
    “The reaction of the ladies was very positive because they needed it,” she said, shortly after working out with a group of clients.    “What bothered me was the reaction of the men…who reacted negatively to our club and even insulted me because they thought our club was in opposition to Sharia.”
    With a troop withdrawal signed between the United States and the Taliban, who have fought a bloody war for 19 years, many women in Afghanistan worry the militant group may exert its influence through formal political channels.
    When the Taliban ruled the country between 1996 and 2001, they banned education for females and barred women from leaving the house without a male relative.
    The group says it has changed but many women remain sceptical.
    “My only concern is about their view of women’s rights and what freedoms and restrictions they will impose on me,” said Durani.
    For now, her focus is on serving the dozens of women who attend the club, whom she describes as a cross-section of society including housewives and women who work outside the home.
    “My only wish is to be seen as a human in this society,” she said.
(Reporting by Ismail Samim, Additional reporting by Hameed Farzad; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Sam Holmes)

9/24/2020 Hong Kong Press Body Says New Police Media Rules Could Limit Scrutiny by Yanni Chow and Carol Mang
FILE PHOTO: Pro-democracy activists Eddie Chu and Owen Chow with relatives of some of the 12 Hong Kong
activists detained at sea, as they reportedly sailed to Taiwan for political asylum, speak to media
before reporting to the police to seek help in Hong Kong, China September 20, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said on Thursday a move by police to narrow the definition of “media representatives” allowed at public events such as protests could limit scrutiny on law enforcers.
    The guidelines, officially changed on Wednesday, now exclude recognition of press passes issued by local media associations such as HKJA and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA), while accepting journalists from 205 bodies registered with the government and international media.
    News associations say the move could limit the work of and raise the risks of arrest for freelancers and student reporters, who have captured some of the most striking scenes of the pro-democracy protests that roiled the city last year, including a video of a police officer shooting a demonstrator in October.
    Police are suspicious of student reporters, who fit the age group of the most ardent protesters, and say they have discovered fake media badges and been attacked by fake reporters.
    “All the police want is to limit us,” said HKJA chairman Chris Yeung, appearing next to representatives of HKPPA and six other media unions.
    “Journalism students are the future of our industry,” he said, speaking in front of a banner reading “Defend the truth, no government vetting.”
    Some students who said they were reporting for their student union publications have been arrested at protests for suspected crimes including rioting.
    Late on Wednesday, Security Secretary John Lee said freedom of the media remained intact.
    The change to internal guidelines meant that recognised reporters will be allowed in cordoned zones where media is not usually allowed and could also be offered interviews at the scene, which has also been rare, he said.
    Lee said the guidelines do not attempt to change the definition of journalists who can conduct reporting outside cordoned areas.
    The Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) said on Wednesday the move was “another step in the erosion of Hong Kong’s once cherished press freedom as it would give the police — rather than reporters and editors — the power to determine who covers the police.”
    The FCC expressed concerns that journalists not recognised under the new guidelines risked being arrested for unlawful assembly and rioting.
    China’s foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong said on Wednesday that the club should “immediately stop meddling with Hong Kong affairs on the pretext of press freedom.”
    “The truth is not to be distorted,” it said.    “By anxiously whitewashing the fake journalists, FCC Hong Kong is attempting to endorse the rioters and condone their ‘burn with us’ violence, thus sowing more trouble in the city.”
    Pro-democracy protests have been smaller and fewer this year due to coronavirus restrictions on gatherings and since the introduction of a national security law on June 30.    There are calls for protests on Oct 1., China’s national day.
(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry)

9/24/2020 U.S. Imposes New Iran Sanctions Over Human Rights Violations
Elliott Abrams, special representative for Iran and Venezuela at the State Department, attends a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
hearing on US Policy in the Middle East on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., September 24, 2020. Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday blacklisted several Iranian officials and entities over alleged gross violations of human rights, including slapping sanctions on a judge it said was involved in the case of an Iranian wrestler sentenced to death.
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement said the United States imposed sanctions on Judge Seyyed Mahmoud Sadati, Judge Mohammad Soltani, Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz, and Adel Abad, Orumiyeh, and Vakilabad Prisons.
    U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams said the sanctions targeted a judge who sentenced Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari to death.    Pompeo said Sadati, a judge of Branch 1 of the Shiraz Revolutionary Court, reportedly oversaw one of Afkari’s trials.
    “The U.S. is committed to holding accountable those who deny freedom and justice to people of Iran and later today the United States will announce sanctions on several Iranian officials and entities including the judge who sentenced Navid Afkari to death,” Abrams said during a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
    The wrestler was executed earlier this month after being convicted for the fatal stabbing of a security guard during anti-government protests in 2018, Iranian state media reported.
    Also blacklisted was Adel Abad prison, where Pompeo said the wrestler reported being tortured by Iranian officials, and Vakilabad prison, where U.S. citizen Michael White was detained.
    Pompeo also called out Iran for what he said was the wrongful detainment of three Americans, Baquer and Siamak Namazi and Morad Tahbaz, adding the United States will make every effort to bring them home.
    Earlier this week, Washington imposed new sanctions on Iran’s defense ministry and others involved in its nuclear and weapons program to support the U.S. assertion that all U.N. sanctions against Tehran are now restored.
    Tensions between Washington and Tehran have spiked since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal struck by his predecessor and began reimposing sanctions that had been eased under the accord.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bernadette Baum and Tom Brown)

9/24/2020 Hong Kong Democracy Activist Joshua Wong Arrested For 2019 Illegal Assembly
FILE PHOTO: Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong leaves the High Court after hearing the result of a judicial review
over the disqualification from district elections in Hong Kong, China September 23, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong on Thursday for participating in an unauthorised assembly in October 2019 and violating the city’s anti-mask law, according to a post on his official Twitter account.
    Wong’s latest arrest adds to several unlawful assembly charges or suspected offences he and other activists are facing related to last year’s pro-democracy protests, which prompted Beijing to impose a sweeping national security law on June 30.
    Hong Kong police confirmed they arrested two men, aged 23 and 74, on Thursday for illegal assembly on Oct. 5, 2019.
    Britain, which administered Hong Kong until a 1997 handover to China whose terms were agreed in a Joint Declaration between London and Beijing, expressed concern over Wong’s arrest.
    “I am deeply concerned about the arrest of Joshua Wong, another example of HK authorities targeting activists,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a Tweet.
    “Chinese and HK authorities must respect the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, as protected in the Joint Declaration,” he said.
    The arrest of Wong, aged 23, comes around 6 weeks after media tycoon Jimmy Lai was detained on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces.
    Wong had been a frequent visitor to Washington where he appealed to the U.S. Congress to support Hong Kong’s democracy movement and counter Beijing’s tightening grip over the global financial hub.    His visits drew the wrath of Beijing, which says he is a “black hand” of foreign forces.
    Wong disbanded his pro-democracy group Demosisto in June, just hours after China’s parliament passed national security law for Hong Kong, bypassing the city’s local legislature, a move widely criticised by Western governments.
    His long-time colleague, Agnes Chow, and two other activists were also among 10 people police arrested in August on suspicion of violating the new law.
    The new law punishes anything China considers as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison.
    Wong was just 17 years old when he became the face of the 2014 student-led Umbrella Movement democracy protests, but he was not a leading figure of the often violent unrest that shook the semi-autonomous former British colony last year.
    An anti-mask law was introduced last year in a bid to help police identify the protesters they suspected of committing crimes and it is facing a challenge in court.    In the meantime, the Hong Kong government has made face masks mandatory in most circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic.
(Additional reporting by Donny Kwok and Estelle Shirbon in London; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Kim Coghill and Diane Craft)

9/26/2020 East Three Dead After Fire At Huawei Facility In Southern China: Local Government by Brenda Goh
FILE PHOTO: A Huawei company logo is pictured at the Shenzhen International Airport in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Three people have been found dead after a fire at a facility belonging to Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] in the southern city of Dongguan on Friday, local authorities said.
    The building, which was close to a Huawei research lab, was a steel structure that was under construction and was not being used when the incident happened, said the management committee of Dongguan’s Songshan Lake area, where it is located.
    The fire was put out by firefighters on Friday afternoon, it added.    Dongguan city fire rescue department earlier in the day said the main material burning was sound-absorbing cotton.
    The Dongguan city fire rescue department later said that three people were found dead in the building who were from the facility’s property management company and that an investigation was under way.    Local authorities had previously said that there were no casualties.
    State media had reported that the fire was at a Huawei research lab.    Huawei did not respond to a request for comment.
    The lab mainly conducts research into materials as well as testing for 4G and 5G antennas related to Huawei’s base station business, a source familiar with the matter said.
    It is part of a larger Huawei manufacturing facility.    The company has another sprawling European-themed campus close by, which has offices for 25,000 employees.
    Videos posted on Chinese social media said to be of the Huawei research lab showed large plumes of dark grey smoke billowing from the building.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai, additional reporting by Pei Li in Hong Kong; editing by Jason Neely, David Evans and Louise Heavens)

9/26/2020 Iranian President Accuses U.S. Of Savagery After New Sanctions
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a news conference on the sidelines of the
United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
    (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States on Saturday of “savagery” after Washington imposed new sanctions on Tehran, and said Iranians should direct their anger at the White House.
    “The Americans have inflicted tens of millions of dollars of damage on Iran,” Rouhani said in televised remarks, his voice shaking with anger.    “We haven’t such an extent of savagery … The address for Iranian people’s curses and hatred is the White House.”
    Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal struck by his predecessor and began reimposing sanctions that had been eased under the accord.
    Washington imposed new sanctions on Monday on Iran’s defence ministry and others involved in its nuclear and weapons programme to support the U.S. assertion that all U.N. sanctions against Tehran are now restored.
    On Thursday, Washington blacklisted several Iranian officials and entities over alleged gross violations of human rights, including imposing sanctions on a judge it said was involved in the case of an Iranian wrestler sentenced to death.
(Reporting by Shahrzad Faramarzi, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

9/26/2020 South Korea Suggests Joint Probe With North Korea On Shooting Of South Korean Official by Hyunjoo Jin
FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters on top of the 160-metre tall tower at North Korea's propaganda village
of Gijungdong, in this picture taken from Tae Sung freedom village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL),
inside the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea urged North Korea on Saturday to further investigate the fatal shooting of a South Korean fisheries official and suggested it could be an unprecedented joint probe by the two sides, as public and political outrage over the killing grew.
    The move came as a rare apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have failed to soothe criticism over the Moon government’s handling over the accident.
    After a National Security Council meeting last evening, South Korea’s presidential office said it would call for a joint probe into the case with the North if needed, saying there were discrepancies in accounts of the accident from the two sides.
    South Korea’s military said on Thursday that the North’s soldiers killed the man, doused his body in fuel and set it on fire near the sea border.
    But the North Korean government said in a message on Friday that its soldiers shot the “illegal intruder” and denied burning his body.
    The two Koreas have not conducted joint probes into previous accidents, including the death of the South Korean tourist who was shot at the North’s mountain resort of Kumgang in 2008 and the North’s bombing of the Yeonpyeong Island which killed four South Koreans in 2010.    The two Koreas have been technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.
    “A chance of a joint probe is low. How on earth can we investigate the North Korean military?,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
    The North has tightened border controls due to the Covid-19 outbreak, which further complicates the prospect of the joint investigation, he said.
    “Given Kim quickly offered a rare apology, there is a possibility of an exchange of written questions and answers between two Koreas,” he said.
‘KOREAN LIVES MATTER’
    In the message, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was quoted as offering an apology for disappointing his counterpart Moon Jae-in and the South Korean people.br>     The main opposition People Power Party said on Saturday Kim’s apology was not genuine, calling on the Moon government to send the case to the International Criminal Court and the U.S. Security Council.
    The Moon administration faces an intense political backlash over how it responded to the incident, which coincided with a renewed push by the president for engagement with Pyongyang.
    Critics questioned why the military did not attempt to save him despite allegedly spotting him six hours before he was shot dead.
    “Peace is important in inter-Korean relations, but the most important thing is the lives of our people. Our people were shot by North Korea and why there is no such movement as 'Korean lives matter' in South Korea?,” said Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean deputy ambassador to London who defected to the South, and became a lawmaker.
    “I am depressed.    Why are we weak in front of North Korea,” he said at a meeting of a parliamentary task force to investigate the case.
    The maritime ministry official was reported missing while on duty on a fisheries boat near the island of Yeonpyeong close to South Korea’s sea border.
    South Korea’s military said the man was apparently attempting to defect to the North, but his brother refuted the claims, saying that he must have had an accident.    The North’s message did not mention whether he was attempting to defect or not, saying the man said he was from South Korea.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by William Mallard, Sam Holmes and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/26/2020 Taiwan’s Armed Forces Strain In Undeclared War Of Attrition With China by Ben Blanchard
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen visits an Air Force maintenance centre at the Gangshan
air base in Kaohsiung, Taiwan September 26, 2020. REUTERS/Ben Blanchard
    KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited a low-key but critical maintenance base for fighter jet engines on Saturday, offering encouragement as the Chinese-claimed island’s armed forces strain in the face of repeated Chinese air force incursions.
    This month alone, China’s drills have included its jets crossing the mid-line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait and exercising near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea.
    Beijing regards Taiwan as a wayward province and has never renounced the use of force to bring the democratic island under its control.
    Taiwan’s air force has repeatedly scrambled to intercept Chinese jets.    Though they have not flown over mainland Taiwan itself, the flights have ramped up pressure, both financial and physical, on Taiwan’s air force to ensure its aircraft are ready to go at any moment.
    Visiting the Gangshan air base in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung, Tsai received a detailed account of how the maintenance crew is making sure Taiwan’s F-16 and other fighters are operating at peak performance.
    She appeared slightly taken aback when told the cost of one small component for the F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighter was T$380,000 ($13,000).
    Speaking later to sailors at the nearby Zuoying naval base, Tsai promised to be the strongest backer of the island’s armed forces.
    “If there was no backup or help from you all, the military’s steadfast combat strength would be greatly reduced,” she said.
    Taiwan’s air force is dwarfed by China’s, and the strain of the multiple sorties on Taiwan’s armed forces have begun to show.
    Taiwan’s Defence Ministry this month said the “dramatic increase” in the threat level, along with the aircraft being “middle-aged” had led to a huge increase in maintenance costs not originally budgeted for.
    Saldik Fafana, 21,a trainee air force engineer at the Gangshan base, said he had noticed an impact recently.    “There is more work,” he told reporters.
‘CONSTANTLY ON EDGE’
    Taiwan is revamping its fighter line-up.
    The United States last year approved an $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, a deal that would bringing the island’s total to more than 200, the largest F-16 fleet in Asia.
    Premier Su Tseng-chang expressed concern on Wednesday about the cost of the tensions with China.
    “Each time the communist aircraft harass Taiwan, our air force takes to the skies, and it is extremely costly.    This isn’t only a burden for Taiwan, but quite a big one for China too,” he said.
    One Taiwan-based diplomat, citing conversations with security officials, said China appeared to be waging a campaign of attrition with its frequent fly-bys.
    “China is trying to wear out Taiwan’s pilots by keeping them constantly on edge,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
    Taiwan’s Defence Ministry, in a report to parliament last month, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, said China’s flights over the narrow strait’s mid-line were aimed at reducing Taiwan’s response time.
    This has put “enormous pressure” on Taiwan’s frontline responders, it said.
    Chinese flights to Taiwan’s southwest, including at night, are “an attempt to exhaust our air defences,” the ministry added, warning that if these become regular fixtures, they will “increase our burden of response
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard)

9/26/2020 Netflix Says It Does Not Agree With Chinese Author’s Views On Uighur Muslims
FILE PHOTO: The Netflix logo is pictured on a television in this illustration photograph taken
in Encinitas, California, U.S., January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Netflix Inc , in a response to U.S. senators’ concerns over the company’s plans to adapt a Chinese science-fiction book trilogy, said on Friday it did not agree with the Chinese author’s views on the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.
    Five Republican U.S. senators urged Netflix this week to reconsider plans to adapt the book into a TV series because they said the author has defended the Chinese government’s clampdown on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
    “The Three-Body Problem” and two sequels were written by Liu Cixin.
    Netflix announced this month that it was turning the books into a live-action, English-language TV series led by D.B Weiss and David Benioff, the creators of HBO megahit “Game of Thrones.”
    Liu serves as a consulting producer on the project.
    “Mr. Liu is the author of the book not the creator of this show.    We do not agree with his comments, which are entirely unrelated to his book or this Netflix show,” said Netflix Global Public Policy Vice President Dean Garfield in a letter to the senators.
    “If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty,” Liu told the New Yorker magazine in 2019.
    “If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.”
    The senators also asked Netflix to reconsider the implications of providing a platform to Liu in producing this project.
    The Netflix streaming service is available in more than 190 countries but does not operate in China.
    The United States and human rights groups have criticized China’s treatment of the Uighurs.
    China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly denied the existence of internment camps in Xinjiang, calling the facilities vocational and educational institutions and accusing what it calls anti-China forces of smearing its Xinjiang policy.
(Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; editing by Jason Neely)

9/26/2020 Iran Prepares To Impose New Coronavirus Lockdowns As Cases Rise
FILE PHOTO: Iranians wearing protective masks and face shields ride a bus, following the outbreak of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tehran, Iran, June 28, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday authorised the country’s provinces to impose lockdowns wherever necessary to stem a rapid rise in coronavirus cases.
    “We are forced to intensify regulations and supervisions,” starting in the capital Tehran, Rouhani said in televised remarks.
    He said government-run coronavirus task-force offices around the country would make recommendations on restrictions and whether to impose one-week lockdowns.
    Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 25,000 and identified cases on Friday totalled 439,882, according to the health ministry.
    Iran’s health officials have expressed alarm over a surge in infections, urging the country to respect health protocols to control the spread of the disease.
(Editing by Jane Merriman)

9/26/2020 Phone Meeting Between Japan’s Suga, Putin Set For Sept. 29: Kyodo
FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference following his confirmation as Prime Minister
of Japan in Tokyo, Japan September 16, 2020. Carl Court/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – A telephone conversation between Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Russian President Vladimir Putin is being arranged for September 29, Kyodo news agency reported on Saturday.
    It will be their first discussion since Suga took over as Japan’s leader.
    The two leaders are expected to confirm to continue to cooperate in a wide range of areas including the economy, as well as the importance of peace treaty talks, the report said.
(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko)

9/26/2020 Armenia Opposition Leader Detained On Vote-Buying Allegations
FILE PHOTO: Businessman and opposition leader Gagik Tsarukyan votes during a parliamentary election at a
poling station in Yerevan, Armenia, April 2, 2017. Varo Rafayelyan/PAN Photo/Handout via REUTERS
    YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenian opposition leader Gagik Tsarukyan, one of the country’s richest businessmen, was put in custody on Friday for two months ahead of a trial on charges of vote-buying in 2017 parliamentary elections.
    Tsarukyan, leader of the Prosperous Armenia party, the second-biggest faction in parliament, denied any wrongdoing, saying the criminal prosecution against him was political.
    Parliament stripped Tsarukyan of his immunity in June, allowing him to be arrested.    The National Security Service raided his home and interrogated him.
    “This is politically motivated.    They will answer for their decision,” Tsarukyan said late on Friday as he was going to the National Security Service.    “In a short time everything will be put in its place.”
    His arrest was ordered by the Yerevan Court of General Jurisdiction over allegations of misconduct surrounding the 2017 elections, which preceded a peaceful revolution.
    Prosperous Armenia, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the new Homeland party led by former national security chief Artur Vanetsyan, said this week they plan a mass protest for Oct. 8.
    “The hopes of many people haven’t been fulfilled and the promises weren’t kept for the last two years,” Prosperous Armenia spokeswoman Iveta Tonoyan told reporters on Tuesday in parliament.    “There is great public discontent with the government, and to make it heard we will organise a protest.”
    Tsarukyan has accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his government of mishandling the economy and failing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic effectively.
    Armenia, a country of 3 million, has registered 48,643 confirmed coronavirus cases and 947 COVID-19 deaths as of Friday, the worst-affected country in the South Caucasus region.
    The economy will contract 6.2% this year because of the pandemic, reversing last year’s 7.6% growth, the central bank forecasts.
    Pashinyan and his party came to power in May 2018 after the revolution against corruption and cronyism.    Tsarukyan aligned himself with that movement at one stage.
    Tsarukyan’s party won 26 of the 132 seats in snap parliamentary elections in December 2018 after the revolution.    Some of its members joined Pashinyan’s cabinet, but they were soon dismissed.
(Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan; Editing by William Mallard)

9/26/2020 China Foreign Ministry Denies Think-Tank Claims Of Xinjiang Mosque Destruction
FILE PHOTO: A Chinese national flag flutters near a minaret of the ancient Id Kah Mosque in the Old City in
Kashgar in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry denied claims from an Australian think-tank that it had destroyed thousands of mosques in its western Xinjiang region, and said there are over 24,000 mosques there, “more mosques per capita than many Muslim countries.”
    The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) had released a report on Thursday which estimated that about 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang have been destroyed or damaged as a result of government policies, mostly since 2017.
    The estimates were made using satellite imagery and based on a sample of 900 religious sites prior to 2017, including mosques, shrines and sacred sites.
    “The Chinese government has embarked on a systematic and intentional campaign to rewrite the cultural heritage of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region… in order to render those indigenous cultural traditions subservient to the ‘Chinese nation’,” said the ASPI report.
    “Alongside other coercive efforts to re-engineer Uighur social and cultural life by transforming or eliminating Uighurs’ language, music, homes and even diets, the Chinese Government’s policies are actively erasing and altering key elements of their tangible cultural heritage.”
    In response to the report, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called it “nothing but slanderous rumors” during a press conference on Friday, and said the ASPI had received foreign funds to “support its concoction of lies against China.”
    “It we look at the numbers, there are more than 24,000 mosques in Xinjiang, which is over ten times more than in the U.S.,” said Wang.    “It means there is a mosque for every 530 Muslims in Xinjiang, which is more mosques per capita than many Muslim countries.”
    China has come under scrutiny over its treatment of Uighur Muslims and claims of alleged forced-labour abuses in Xinjiang, where the United Nations cites credible reports as saying one million Muslims held in camps have been put to work.
    China has denied mistreating Uighurs, and say the camps are vocational training centres that are needed to tackle extremism.
(Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/26/2020 China Says WHO Gave Blessing For Coronavirus Vaccine Emergency Use Programme
FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the headquarters of the World Health Orgnaization (WHO) ahead of a meeting of the
Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland, January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
    BEIJING (Reuters) – The World Health Organization supported China’s campaign to vaccinate certain people against coronavirus in July while clinical trials were still under way, a Chinese health official said on Friday, although some experts have expressed concern about the move.
    China launched its emergency programme in July, having communicated with the WHO in late June, according to Zheng Zhongwei, a National Health Commission official.
    Hundreds of thousands essential workers and other limited groups of people considered at high risk of infection have been given the vaccine, even though its efficacy and safety had not been fully established as Phase 3 clinical trials were incomplete, raising concerns among experts.
    “At end-June, China’s State Council approved a plan of COVID-19 vaccine emergency use program,” Zheng told a news conference.
    “After the approval, on June 29, we made a communication with the relevant representatives of the WHO Office in China, and obtained support and understanding from WHO,” Zheng said.
    Countries have autonomy to issue emergency use authorization for any health product according to the national regulations and legislations, Dr. Mariangela Simão, assistant director-general at the WHO, said on Friday at a news conference in Geneva.
    WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said earlier this month that emergency use authorization for coronavirus vaccine is a “temporary solution,” and that the long-term solution lay in completion of Phase 3 trials.
    Beijing has not publicly released full details of its emergency use programme.
    At least three vaccine candidates, including two developed by state-backed China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and one from Sinovac Biotech, all in Phase 3 trials overseas, are included in the emergency use programme.
    A fourth experimental vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics were approved to be used in the Chinese military in June.
    China’s annual production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines is expected to reach 610 million doses by end-2020 and 1 billion doses by 2021, Zheng said.
    In China, the vaccine price will be affordable for the general public, Zheng added.
(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Roxanne Liu in Beijing; Editing by Ryan Woo and Simon Cameron-Moore)

9/26/2020 Australia Says World Needs To Know Origins Of COVID-19 by Colin Packham
Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia speaks virtually during the 75th annual U.N. General Assembly,
which is being held mostly virtually due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan
borough of New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2020. United Nations/Handout via REUTERS
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – The world’s nations must do all they can to understand the origins of COVID-19, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday, comments that could worsen tensions with China.
    Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Morrison said an inquiry into the roots of the virus would minimise the threat of another global pandemic.
    “This virus has inflicted a calamity on our world and its peoples.    We must do all we can to understand what happened for no other purpose than to prevent it from happening again,” Morrison said via a teleconference video link.
    “There is a clear mandate to identify the zoonotic source of the COVID-19 virus and how it was transmitted to humans.”
    Morrison’s comments came after similar comments by the prime minister earlier in the year soured ties between Australia and China.
    At that time, he led global demands for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.    China strongly rebuffed that move, with Beijing’s ambassador to Canberra warning the inquiry calls could sour trade ties.
    Since then, China has imposed trade sanctions on Australia.    It suspended some beef imports on a technicality and effectively blocked a A$439 million ($308.5 million) trade in barley by slapping tariffs of 80.5% on the Australian import.    China has also launched an anti-dumping probe into Australian wine imports.
    Meanwhile, Australia called on all nations to share a COVID-19 vaccine should one be developed.
    Australia earlier this year signed a vaccine agreement with AstraZeneca , with the first batches scheduled to be delivered in January 2021 if trials prove successful.
    Australia has said it will share supplies with smaller Pacific Island nations.
($1 = 1.4231 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

9/26/2020 Prime Minister Modi: India To Use Vaccine Production To Help All Humanity by OAN Newsroom
In this photo made from UNTV video, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during
the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, at UN Headquarters. (UNTV Via AP )
    India’s prime minister has pledged his country’s vaccine production capacity will be made available to the world.    In an address to the United Nations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called India “the largest vaccine producing country in the world.”
    He announced India is moving ahead with phase three clinical trials and promised the country’s help to all countries with the delivery of a vaccine.
    “India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis,” said Modi.
    India has recorded nearly 6 million COVID-19 cases and a death toll of more than 90,000.    The first dose of the vaccine, which was developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, will be administered to volunteers in a hospital in Mumbai.
    Meanwhile, a second hospital is slated to start clinical trials on Monday.    Volunteers will be given a second dose of the potential vaccine within 29 days.

9/26/2020 Tokyo Olympics Organizers Announce ‘Simplified’ Plans Ahead Of Next Year’s Games by OAN Newsroom
From Left to right; Christophe Dubi IOC’s Olympic Games Executive Director and Robert Roxburgh Head of Olympic Games Communications of IOC
(on the screen), speak during a joint press conference between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo Organizing Committee
of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Tokyo. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
    On Friday, organizers for the Tokyo Olympics unveiled scaled back plans to ensure the games can still go on next summer.    During a press conference, Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori announced measures to simplify the games in order to cut costs and comply with health safety guidelines.
    The games were supposed to take place this summer, but were postponed by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
    Some of the new measures included reducing the number of staff members, cutting back on press opportunities and canceling the opening ceremony.
    “(Japan’s former Prime Minister) Mr. Abe said holding the games is the most important task, and (the current Prime Minister) Mr. Suga said he will take on this as his number one priority,” explained Mori.    “He said the success of the Olympics and Paralympics are the most important tasks for Suga’s cabinet.”
    A detailed report focused on the cost-cutting efforts to “simplify” the games is expected to be released in October.

9/27/2020 North Korea Warns Of Naval Tensions During Search For Slain South Korean by Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters on top of the 160-metre tall tower at North Korea's propaganda village
of Gijungdong, in this picture taken from Tae Sung freedom village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), inside the
demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Sunday it is searching for the body a South Korean official killed by its troops, but warned that South Korean naval operations in the area threatened to raise tensions by intruding across a disputed sea border.
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a rare apology on Friday for the fatal shooting of the South Korean fisheries official in North Korean waters, according to Seoul.
    South Korea’s military has accused the North’s soldiers of killing the man, dousing his body in fuel and setting it on fire near the sea border.
    After South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened a ministers’ meeting to discuss North Korea on Sunday, the presidential Blue House reiterated calls for Pyongyang to allow a joint investigation into the killing.    It urged the restoration of military communication hotlines that the North severed earlier this year as relations soured.
    North Korean state news agency KCNA called the killing an “awful case which should not have happened” but accused South Korean naval operations near in the area of crossing into North Korean waters.
    “We urge the south side to immediately halt the intrusion across the military demarcation line in the west sea that may lead to escalation of tensions,” KCNA said.
    A spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense had no immediate comment on the North’s accusations.
    The South has been searching only in waters south of the Northern Limit Line, a contested sea demarcation between the two Koreas that dates to the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said, quoting an unnamed coast guard official.
    South Korea has mobilised 39 vessels, including 16 naval ships, and six aircraft for the search, which continued on Sunday despite the North Korean complaints, Yonhap said.
    North Korea was beginning its own search operation to recover the body, KCNA said.
    “We also took more necessary security measures in order to make sure that no more incident spoiling the relations of trust and respect between the north and the south would happen in any case,” the report added, without elaborating.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Sandra Maler and William Mallard)

9/27/2020 Clashes Erupt Between Armenia And Azerbaijan Over Nagorno-Karabakh by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova
A still image from a video released by the Armenian Defence Ministry shows what is said to be Azerbaijani tanks,
one of which is destroyed by Armenian armed forces in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh,
in this still image from footage released September 27, 2020. Defence Ministry of Armenia/Handout via REUTERS
    YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – Armenia declared martial law and mobilised its male population on Sunday after clashes with Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region in which sources on both sides reported fatalities.
    Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly ethnic Armenian region inside Azerbaijan which declared independence in 1991, also announced martial law and mobilised the male population after clashes which the two sides blamed on each other.
    Armenia said Azerbaijan had carried out an air and artillery attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, but Azerbaijan said it had responded to Armenian shelling.
    Armenian human right activists said two civilians, a woman and a child, had been killed by Azeri shelling.    Baku said an unspecified number of Azeri civilians had been killed and six wounded, and Nagorno-Karabakh said 10 of its military staff had been killed.    The reports could not be independently confirmed.
    Russia’s foreign ministry, a mediator in decades of conflict between majority Christian Armenia and mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, urged both sides to cease fire immediately and hold talks.
    The two countries have long been at odds over Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke away from Azerbaijan in a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed.
    Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.
    The conflict has worried Western and regional countries in part because it could cause instability in the South Caucasus, which serves as a corridor for pipelines transporting oil and gas to world markets.
FREQUENT SKIRMISHES
    Armenia’s defence ministry said its troops had destroyed three tanks and shot down two helicopters and three unmanned aerial vehicles in response to an attack on civilian targets including Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert.
    “Our response will be proportionate, and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation,” the ministry said in a statement echoed by the foreign ministry.
    Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Twitter: “We stay strong next to our army to protect our motherland from Azeri invasion.”
    Azerbaijan denied the Armenian defence ministry statement, saying it had “complete advantage over the enemy on the front,” and accused Armenian forces of launching “deliberate and targeted” attacks along the front line.
    “We defend our territory, our cause is right!” Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, said in an address to the nation.     Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said some civilians had been killed but gave no death toll.
    At least 200 people were killed in a flare-of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in April 2016.    There are frequent skirmishes and at least 16 were reported killed in clashes in July.
(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Stephen Coates and Timothy Heritage)

9/27/2020 NZ Prime Minister On Course For Election Victory: Poll by Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern participates in a televised debate with National leader
Judith Collins at TVNZ in Auckland, New Zealand, September 22, 2020. Fiona Goodall/Pool via REUTERS
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is poised to retain power at next month’s election, a widely watched poll showed on Sunday, although it said a recent COVID-19 outbreak has dented her support slightly.
    A Newshub-Reid Research Poll released on Sunday showed support for Ardern’s Labour Party at to 50.1%, though this is down from the record 60.9% recorded earlier this year when New Zealand was widely lauded as a world leader in battling COVID-19.
    Support for the main opposition National Party was at 29.6%, up 4.5 percentage points.
    Should the poll findings materialise, Ardern would govern without relying on any coalition partners.
    New Zealand was COVID-free for 102 days until a second wave hit Auckland last month.
    Ardern became the country’s youngest leader in more than 150 years in 2017 after the kingmaker nationalist New Zealand First Party agreed to form a government with her Labour Party, ending the National Party’s decade in power.
    Ardern, 40, also holds huge global appeal due to her response to last year’s attack by a white supremacist on two mosques, a fatal volcanic eruption and her success with the COVID-19 outbreak.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/27/2020 ‘Taiwan Is Taiwan’: China Name Dispute Moves From Birds To Climate Change
FILE PHOTO: An audience waves Taiwanese flags during the National Day
celebrations in Taipei, Taiwan October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – The dispute over international organisations referring to Taiwan as Chinese has moved from wild bird conservation to climate change, after a global alliance of mayors began listing Taiwanese cities as belonging to China on its website.
    China has ramped up pressure on international groups and companies, no matter how small or obscure, to refer to democratic Taiwan as being part of China, to the anger of Taiwan’s government and many of its people.
    Beijing views the island as merely a wayward Chinese province.
    This month a Taiwan bird conservation body said it had been expelled from a partnership with a British-based wildlife charity after they demanded the Taiwan group change their name and sign documents stating they did not support Taiwan’s independence.
    Late on Saturday, the government of the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung said the website of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy had begun listing Taiwan member cities like itself as part of China.
    On Sunday, Taiwan’s government reacted with anger.
    “Taiwan is Taiwan.    China is China.    Taiwan is not a city of China’s.    If there is incorrect usage we think this is extremely improper,” Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters.
    “China hopes to make Taiwan part of it in the world, a city of its.    This is not in line with the facts.”
    Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said it had asked the group to make a correction, while Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai said his city was known globally as being in southern Taiwan, rather than as part of China.
    The Global Covenant’s secretariat said in a short email to Reuters that they “may not be able to respond until business hours resume Monday.”
    The Global Covenant says its mission is to “galvanise climate and energy action across cities worldwide,” representing a population of over 800 million.    The only Chinese city it lists as a member is Hong Kong.
    China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reportig by Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by Stephen Coates)

9/27/2020 China’s Xi Says ‘Happiness’ In Xinjiang On The Rise, Will Keep Teaching ‘Correct’ Outlook
FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the meeting to commend role models in China's fight against the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China September 8, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping said levels of happiness among all ethnic groups in the western region of Xinjiang are rising and that China plans to keep teaching its residents a “correct” outlook on China, Xinhua news agency reported late on Saturday.
    China has come under scrutiny over its treatment of Uighur Muslims and claims of alleged forced-labour abuses in Xinjiang, where the United Nations cites credible reports as saying one million Muslims held in camps have been put to work.
    China has repeatedly denied mistreating Uighurs and says the camps are vocational training centres that are needed to tackle extremism, accusing what it calls anti-China forces of smearing its Xinjiang policy.
    “The sense of gain, happiness, and security among the people of all ethnic groups (in Xinjiang) has continued to increase,” Xi told a ruling Communist Party conference on Xinjiang held on Friday and Saturday, Xinhua said.
    Xi said it was necessary to educate Xinjiang’s population on an understanding of the Chinese nation and guide “all ethnic groups on establishing a correct perspective on the country, history and nationality.”
    “Practice has shown that the party’s strategy for governing Xinjiang in the new era is completely correct” and it should be a long-term approach, he added.
    In July, Washington imposed sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. government to target human rights violators by freezing any U.S. assets, banning U.S. travel and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.
(Reporting by Engen Tham; Editing by Tony Munroe and Nick Macfie)

9/28/2020 Armenian, Azeri Forces Exchange Fire Again, Karabakh Says 15 More Soldiers Killed
An Azerbaijani service member drives an armoured carrier and greets people, who gather on the roadside in Baku, Azerbaijan September 27, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov
    YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – Armenian and Azeri forces exchanged fierce fire for a second day on Monday over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, with both sides accusing each other of using heavy artillery.
    The clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the heaviest since 2016, have reignited concern over stability in the South Caucasus region, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.
    Nagorno-Karabakh is inside Azerbaijan but is run by ethnic Armenians.
    Azerbaijan’s president declared a partial military mobilisation.    Interfax news agency quoted an Armenian defence ministry representative as saying 200 Armenians had been wounded.
    Nagorno-Karabakh reported 15 more of its soldiers had been killed.    It also said it had recovered some territory that it had lost control of on Sunday, and said Azerbaijan had been using heavy artillery to shell areas.
    Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said Armenian forces were shelling the town of Terter.
    Nagorno-Karabakh had said on Sunday 16 of its servicemen had been killed and more than 100 wounded after Azerbaijan launched an air and artillery attack.
    China and Russia urged both sides to show restraint.
    The clashes have prompted a flurry of diplomacy to reduce the tensions in a decades-old conflict between majority Christian Armenia and mainly Muslim Azerbaijan.    Russia called for an immediate ceasefire and another regional power, Turkey, said it would support Azerbaijan, its traditional ally.
    Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
(Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan in Yerevan and Nailia Bagirova in Baku; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Mark Trevelyan and Gareth Jones)

9/28/2020 Sick Of Staying Home: China Expects A Golden Week Tourism Rebound by Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh
Passengers wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak walk at the Beijing Daxing International
Airport ahead of Chinese National Day holiday, in Beijing, China September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China expects a significant rebound in domestic travel over the upcoming Golden Week holiday after the sector was pummelled by the novel coronavirus for months, with some flights selling out and travel platforms reporting a surge in hotel bookings.
    The pent-up demand is fuelling optimism the Chinese travel industry has reached a turning point, with hopes the eight-day holiday from Oct. 1 will supercharge a tentative pickup seen in recent months, even as some trepidation over the virus lingers.
    China’s resurgent travel industry offers a striking contrast to business in some other parts of Asia as well as in the United States and Europe, where the novel coronavirus is still circulating and gatherings are restricted.
    The holiday to mark modern China’s founding is traditionally one of its busiest times for travel, and not just at home.    Last year, 782 million trips were made, with more than 7 million people travelling abroad, according to government data.
    “The demand on tourism that was suppressed for nine months will probably be released in these eight days,” said online travel platform Trip.com in a statement, estimating that 600 million trips could be made.
    China has largely stamped out its coronavirus epidemic, which emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year, and many restrictions on domestic travel have been lifted.
    Few people, however, are expected to venture abroad due to various quarantine requirements around the world and a dearth of overseas flights.
    But more domestic air bookings were made between Oct. 1 and Sept. 14 than in the year-earlier period, with a surge in August, and economy seats on popular routes, like Beijing to the southwestern city of Lijiang, have sold out, according to travel service provider Qunar.com.
    Hotel and airline bookings made during the week of Sept. 8-15 exceeded those made during the same period last year, Alibaba-backed online travel platform Fliggy said, with hotel bookings for Golden Week up by more than 50%.
LONGING TO FLY
    Spending on hotels during the holiday is expected to recover to last year’s level, or even see slight growth, according to the research department of China’s Meituan Dianping <3690.HK>, whose on-demand service apps span groceries to hotels.
    “People want to fly somewhere, there is this pent-up demand as they’re sick of staying at home,” said Mei Xin, retail analyst at Huatai Securities.
    But still, some coronavirus caution remains.
    People often have to show health-tracking QR codes, which have played a key part in containing the virus, and some hotels are asking guests to get coronavirus tests before arriving.
    And some families are being asked to stay at home.
    In cities like Beijing and Shanghai, schools have asked parents and students not to go away for the holidays unless strictly necessary.
    Beijing-based television producer Pan Lei, 45, said he felt he had to cancel a family trip to the Yellow Mountain tourist area after getting a notice from his children’s schools.
    “I lost the money I paid in advance,” he said.
    But he said it was understandable there were fears of a second coronavirus wave this winter.
    “Schools want to cut risks to the minimum.”
(Reporting by Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh; Editing by Robert Birsel)

9/28/2020 With EU Help, Taiwan Gets Rare Win In China Naming Dispute
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks at a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan expressed satisfaction on Monday and said the European Union had stepped in to help after a global alliance of mayors stopped referring to Taiwanese cities as part of China, in a rare win for the island amid growing Chinese pressure.
    China has ramped up efforts to get international groups and companies to refer on their websites and in official documents to democratic, Chinese-claimed Taiwan as being part of China, to the ire of Taiwan’s government and many of its people.
    Over the weekend, Taiwan officials expressed anger after the Brussels-based Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy began listing on its website its six Taiwan member cites as belonging to China.
    The mayors of the cities then wrote an open letter calling for the decision to be reversed.
    Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said after the protest, the group had reverted to its original designation of the cities as being part of Chinese Taipei, a name Taiwan uses in some international bodies like the Olympics to avoid Beijing’s objections to their participation.
    The European Union “helped us in this effort,” Wu told parliament, without giving details.
    “We are very happy that with everyone’s hard work the name has reverted,” he said.
    “Though some people may not be happy with this name, at least the way we participate is not placed under another country.”
    The EU’s de facto embassy in Taipei did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and neither did the Global Covenant.
    No EU member states have diplomatic ties with Taiwan and the EU itself tends to keep a low profile when it comes to Taiwan, wary of upsetting China, its second largest trading partner.
    In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Taiwan was an inalienable part of Chinese territory.
    “Cities in the Taiwan region certainly should be listed as Chinese,” he told reporters.
    The Global Covenant says its mission is to “galvanise climate and energy action across cities worldwide.”    The only Chinese city it lists as a member is Hong Kong.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel)

9/28/2020 Support For NZ’s Ardern Drops In Latest Poll But Coalition Still Seen Winning
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern participates in a televised debate with National leader
Judith Collins at TVNZ in Auckland, New Zealand, September 22, 2020. Fiona Goodall/Pool via REUTERS
    WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s ruling Labour Party will need help from coalition partners to form a government after an Oct.17 general election, the latest opinion polls showed on Monday, after it was previously on course to govern alone.
    A closely watched 1News-Colmar Brunton poll showed support for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s party, which is seeking a second term, is at 47%, down 1 percentage points since the last poll on Sept. 22.
    This means Labour, which is campaigning on its record of bringing the novel coronavirus under control, would have 59 seats in Parliament, two short of the 61 seats needed to form a government.
    But support for its possible coalition partner the Green Party rose to 7%, which would give it eight seats.
    The Labour Party is still widely expected to form the next government. Another poll released on Sunday showed Ardern’s party was poised to retain power.
    Support for the opposition National Party was at 33% in the latest poll on Monday, up two percentage points, after its tough-talking conservative leader Judith Collins was praised for her performance in a leaders’ debate last week.
    Ardern’s popularity as preferred prime minister was steady at 54%, while Collins rose to 23%, up 5 percentage points from the last poll.
    Smaller parties also continued to gain more support.
    All recent polls have pointed to a victory for Ardern’s Labour Party, governing in a coalition with the Greens and New Zealand First.
    Ardern, 40, has won support at home and global admiration for her response to last year’s attack by a white supremacist on two mosques, a fatal volcanic eruption and her success in tackling the coronavirus.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Kim Coghill, Robert Birsel)

9/28/2020 Beijing Unveils New Protections For Health Emergency Whistleblowers
Passengers wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak line up with luggages at the Beijing Daxing
International Airport, ahead of Chinese National Day holiday, in Beijing, China September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s capital Beijing will protect whistleblowers who disclose information about public health emergencies, it said on Sunday, part of the country’s efforts to fix some of the systemic faults that hindered its initial response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
    The Beijing city government said it would offer rewards to health workers who disclose vital information about any imminent health emergency, and will also ensure their safety and legal rights are protected.
    Workers could in urgent situations skip the chain of command and report health risks directly to the local government, it said, and as long as their intent was not “malicious,” they would not face punishment if information turned out to be false.
    Beijing also said it would strengthen its monitoring network, set up specialist infectious disease hospitals and establish “sentries” at the community level to keep watch for symptoms like fever.
    The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the COVID-19 outbreak first began, has been criticised for its heavy-handed treatment of medical staff who first tried to reveal details of a new and unknown pneumonia-like disease at the end of 2019.
    Li Wenliang, one of the doctors warned by local police, later became one of the most high-profile victims of the coronavirus, causing nationwide outrage.
    Chinese officials have acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak exposed “shortcomings” in their ability to handle epidemics, and they have promised to take action to improve early warning systems and free up the flow of information.
    The government said in May that it would empower local disease control centres to take early action in the event of any new outbreak, though experts said the measures did not go far enough to address “systemic” flaws.
    They say China’s top-down political system does not give local governments the authority or the funding to take the timely action required to tackle outbreaks.
    Last month, the city government of Shenzhen also unveiled new guidelines allowing medical workers to disclose information about infectious diseases.    They also gave local authorities powers to take emergency action more quickly.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Additional reporting by David Kirton in Shenzhen; Editing by Michael Perry)

9/28/2020 Paris Knife Attack Suspect Wanted To Avenge Prophet Cartoons: Video by Richard Lough and Asif Shahzad
FILE PHOTO: A French police officer stands near the Opera Bastille where a suspect in a stabbing attack near the former
offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo was arrested in Paris, France September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    PARIS/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – French police are studying a video in which the man suspected of attacking people with a meat cleaver on Friday says he will commit an act of “resistance” after the republication of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad in a satirical magazine.
    The suspect, who is from Pakistan, was arrested soon after two people were wounded in front of the old offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine.    Officials said his clothes were spattered in blood.
    The video was found on the suspect’s mobile phone, French media reported.    Reuters could not independently authenticate the video recording.    A police source confirmed a video was being examined.
    In the video, the suspect identifies himself as Zeheer Hassan Mehmood and says he came from Mandi Bahauddin in Punjab province. Starting to sob, he then recites poetry praising the Prophet Mohammad.
    “If I’m sounding emotional, let me explain: here, in France, the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad were made,” he says in Urdu.    “I am going to do (an act of) resistance today, Sept. 25.”
    Mehmood’s father praised his son.
    “My heart is filled with happiness,” Arshad Mehmood told the online news site Naya Pakistan from the family home.    “I can sacrifice all my five sons to protect the Prophet’s honour.”
    “He called us … and said that the God’s Prophet had chosen him, and assigned him to kill the blasphemers.”
    The cartoons were first published by Charlie Hebdo in 2006 and spurred Islamist militants to target the magazine’s office in 2015 in an attack that left 12 people dead and was claimed by al Qaeda.
    The weekly, which moved to a secret location after the attack, republished the cartoons earlier this month to mark the beginning of the trial of 14 people with alleged links to the Charlie Hebdo killers.
    For Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.
    Wearing a long tunic, the suspect said he was spiritually guided by Ilyas Qadri.    Qadri is a Sunni cleric and the founder of Dawat-e-Islami, a non-violent organisation spread across the globe.
    Qadri says a person who commits blasphemy should be handed in to police, but if another individual were driven by their emotions to kill the blasphemer, the law should not apply.
    Dawat-e-Islami did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Richard Lough in Paris and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad; Editing by Giles Elgood)

9/28/2020 Explainer: Who’s Fighting In Nagorno-Karabakh, And Why Does It Matter? by Mark Trevelyan
    (Reuters) – Fierce fighting has broken out between Azerbaijan and its ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, a new and dangerous eruption of a decades-old conflict.
WHERE AND WHAT IS NAGORNO-KARABAKH?
    It’s a mountainous, forested patch of land that sits inside the territory of ex-Soviet Azerbaijan and is recognised under international law as part of that country.    But the ethnic Armenians who make up the vast majority of the estimated 150,000 population reject Azeri rule.    They have been running their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan’s troops were pushed out in a war in the 1990s.    A ceasefire was agreed in 1994 but at least 200 people were killed in a violent flare-up in 2016.    Nagorno-Karabakh survives almost totally on budget support from Armenia and donations from the worldwide Armenian diaspora.
WHY HAS FIGHTING BROKEN OUT NOW?
    Tensions between the two sides have been building over the summer, and spilled into direct clashes on Sunday.    The timing is significant because the outside powers that have mediated in the past – namely Russia, France and the United States – are distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming U.S. presidential election and a list of world crises from Lebanon to Belarus.    Lower-level clashes in July prompted only a muted international response.    Turkey, which held large military exercises with Azerbaijan in July and August, has been even more conspicuous in its support compared with past crises.    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Ankara would stand by Azerbaijan “with all its resources and heart.”    He did not directly address whether Turkey is supplying the Azeri side with military experts, drones and warplanes, as Armenia has alleged and Azerbaijan has denied.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
    Past outbreaks of fighting have killed some 30,000 people since 1988.    Already dozens have been killed and several hundred wounded in the latest flare-up.    Olesya Vartanyan, an analyst with Crisis Group, said Monday witnessed an increase in deployment of heavy weaponry such as rockets and artillery, bringing a higher risk of civilian casualties that would make it harder to pull the two sides back from all-out war.    That in turn could draw in other powers such as Turkey and Russia and destabilise the South Caucasus region, an important corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas.
WHAT COULD STOP THE FIGHTING?
    Several countries, including Russia and China, have called for a halt to hostilities but so far without any discernible impact.    Russia potentially holds the key: it has a mutual defence pact with Armenia and a military base there, but also enjoys good relations with Azerbaijan and has no interest in the conflict spreading.    If its diplomacy succeeded, Moscow could earn kudos for ending the fighting at a time when it is under intense criticism on other fronts, including over its backing for Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko after a disputed election and over the poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in Siberia last month, which Germany says was carried out with a nerve agent.    President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Sunday but it is not yet clear if he has attempted to talk to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan, Editing by William Maclean)

9/29/2020 Armenian, Azeri Forces Accuse Each Other Of Shelling Far From Karabakh by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
A car drives past the remains of spent ammunition following a recent shelling, in armed clashes over the
breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, in the city of Tartar, Azerbaijan September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Tuesday of firing into each other’s territory, far from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, as the worst spate of fighting since the 1990s raged for a third day and the civilian death toll mounted.
    Dozens have been reported killed and hundreds wounded since the fierce clashes between Azerbaijan and its ethnic Armenian mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh broke out on Sunday in a new eruption of a decades-old conflict.
    Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said 10 civilians had been killed by Armenian shelling since Sunday.    There was no official information about casualties among Azeri servicemen.
    The Armenian defence ministry said an Armenian civilian bus in Vardenis — a town in Armenia at the border with Azerbaijan and far from     Nagorno-Karabakh — caught fire after being hit by an Azeri drone, but no one appeared to be hurt. It said it was making further checks.
    Nagorno-Karabakh is a breakaway region that is inside Azerbaijan but is run by ethnic Armenians and is supported by Armenia.    It broke away from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s, but is not recognised by any country as an independent republic.
    Any move to all-out war could drag in major regional powers Russia and Turkey.    Moscow has a defence alliance with Armenia, which provides vital support to the enclave and is its lifeline to the outside world, while Ankara backs its own ethnic Turkic kin in Azerbaijan.
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for an immediate ceasefire and de-escalation of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in phone calls with the countries’ leaders, government spokesman Steffen Seiber said on Tuesday.
COUNTER-ATTACKS
    The Armenian defence ministry said in a statement that Azeri armed forces opened fire on a military unit in Vardenis, but that the situation was generally less tense on the border.
    “The Armenian border with Azerbaijan is relatively calm,” defence ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan said.
    Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said that from Vardenis the Armenian army had shelled the Dashkesan region inside Azerbaijan.    Armenia denied those reports.
    Azerbaijan on Sunday reported the death of five members of a single family.    Armenia said on Tuesday that a 9-year-old girl was killed in shelling, while her mother and a brother were wounded.
    A mother and her child were killed in Martuni on Sunday, the defence ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh said.
    The clashes have reignited concern over stability in the South Caucasus region, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.
    Armenia is considering the possibility of concluding a military-political alliance with Nagorno-Karabakh, Lilit Makunts, an MP from the ruling My Step alliance, wrote on her Facebook page.
    Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said both sides had attempted to recover lost ground by launching counter-attacks in the directions of Fizuli, Jabrayil, Agdere and Terter – Armenian-occupied areas of Azerbaijan that border Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Armenia reported fighting throughout the night, and said that Nagorno-Karabakh’s army had repelled attacks in several directions along the line of contact.
(Additional reporting by Riham Alkousaa in Berlin; Writing by Margarita Antidze and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan, William Maclean)

9/29/2020 New Thai Army Chief Pledges Defence Of Monarchy
Thailand's Royal Army Chief General Narongpan Jitkaewthae participates in the handover ceremony for the new Royal Thai
Army Chief at the Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, September 29, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s new army chief pledged on Tuesday to follow his predecessor, who has taken a hard line against anti-government groups and he emphasised the importance of protecting the monarchy.
    The appointment of General Narongpan Jittkaewtae, in an annual military reshuffle, comes as Thailand’s army and palace dominated establishment faces the challenge of more than two months of anti-government protests.
    Narongpan made no specific mention of the protesters, some of whom have called for reforms to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy.
    “I pledge to all of you that I will continue the obligations, responsibility, policies and ideology of the army chief, General Apirat Kongsompong, to the fullest of my ability,” Narongpan told a military ceremony.
    Apirat, moving to a senior position in the royal household, was outspoken in criticising opposition figures, academics and politicians as potential threats to national security.
    “I will protect and develop the army so it stands as a key institution of security that sustains the nation and throne,” said Narongpan, who will formally take up the new post on Oct. 1.    He did not take questions from media.
    Army appointments are closely scrutinised in Thailand, where soldiers have taken power 13 times since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.    Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha first seized power in a 2014 coup.
    Narongpan, 57, belongs to Vajiralongkorn’s own King’s Guard faction of the army.
(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

9/29/2020 High Road At Chilling: India Builds Himalayan Bridges And Highways To Match China by Devjyot Ghoshal
Labourers from the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) work on a highway under construction in the Ladakh region, India, September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    CHILLING, India(Reuters) – Ligen Eliyas deftly turns the excavator’s hydraulic arm to push a huge boulder into the Zanskar river below in a cloud of dust, clearing another bit of land for a strategic highway that India is hurriedly building near the Chinese border.
    The construction site near the hamlet of Chilling in the Ladakh region is around 250 km (150 miles) west of the area where Indian and Chinese troops are locked in the most serious confrontation in decades.
    But when ready, the road will provide the only year-round access to large parts of Ladakh, including the border zone.    That will go some way to bringing India on par with China, which has a network of roads and helipads on its side of the border.
    “It will become a lot easier for the army after this road is finished,” Eliyas said, with parts of his face and khaki uniform caked in fine stone dust.
    The protracted standoff in the remote western Himalayan region erupted into a bloody hand-to-hand clash in June in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed and China suffered an unspecified number of casualties.    The Asian giants fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962.
    The 283-km (175-mile)-long Nimmu-Padam-Darcha (NPD) highway, where Eliyas is working, is expected to be completed in three years, officials said.    It highlights the efforts by India, which have been redoubled after the latest tensions, to develop key infrastructure – roads, tunnels, bridges and airfields – along the unsettled 3,500 km (2,170 mile) border with China.
    The road will link up with an 8.8-km (5.5-mile) tunnel that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate in coming weeks, opening the snow deserts of Ladakh to the rest of the country all year round.
    There are two main highways that connect Ladakh to the rest of India, but they are closed for at least four months every winter.    The only way urgent supplies are sent to Ladakh during these months is by air.
    With thousands of its troops amassed at the border and no sign of a drawdown, India is now pushing harder to blast and smash its way through the Himalayas.
    “We will not back down from taking any big and tough step in the interest of our country,” Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament this month, adding the government had doubled the budget for infrastructure work on the China border.
    The frenetic construction itself has become a thorny issue this summer with the Chinese complaining that the Indian activity in the mountains was destabilising, Indian officials said. But China built its infrastructure in the area years ago, and it needs to be matched, they said.
    “China does not recognise the so-called ‘Ladakh Union Territory’ illegally set up by India and is opposed to infrastructure building at the border area for the purpose of military control,” the office of China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said.    It added that according to a recent consensus by both sides, no side should be taking any action that complicates the situation at the border area.
    China’s Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
MATTER OF HOURS
    China’s network of roads and railways, logistics depots and helipads mean that it can move troops to forward areas in a matter of hours, said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a distinguished fellow at New Delhi think-tank Observer Research Foundation.
    For India, it would take days to match those deployments, she said.
    “The infrastructure buildup by the Chinese is not only aiming at the quick deployment of forces but also to sustain them for a relatively longer period of time,” Rajagopalan said.
    Conceived in 1999, India’s NPD project moved at a glacial pace till work picked just a couple of year ago, said N.K. Jain, a commander in the state-run Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
    Since then, the BRO has built some 100 km of the NPD project, and constructed 11 of the 15 major bridges on the route. “Our work is happening at double the speed in the last two years,” Jain said.
    New drilling machines that push dynamite sticks deeper and faster into hard rock to blow them apart have improved the speed of construction, said B. Kishen, a BRO executive engineer who is supervising the project near Chilling.
    On a recent afternoon, dozens of workers cleared debris from a freshly blasted section of the road.    A few kilometres away, another group crouched under an excavator as explosives went off to clear land for another section of the highway.
    Work will continue through the bitter winter, when temperatures drop to below minus 40 Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit) and biting winds at altitudes above 11,000 feet (3,300 m) make road construction even more challenging, Kishen said.
    The government has identified 73 strategically important roads along the Chinese border, of which 61 are with the BRO, running over 3,300 km (2,000 miles).    A parliamentary committee report in March noted that 75% of the work under BRO had been completed.
    The full network of roads will cut down travel time between key Indian military bases, allowing for quicker mobilisation of troops and ease patrolling in some forward areas, an Indian official said.
    “It will also lead to lower expenditure for the forces,” the official said, with all-weather roads replacing the need for expensive airlift operations during the winter months.
    “We will have a better chance of catching up with the Chinese.”
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/29/2020 Azerbaijan And Armenia Reject Talks As Karabakh Conflict Zone Spreads by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
A car drives past the remains of spent ammunition following a recent shelling, in armed clashes over the
breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, in the city of Tartar, Azerbaijan September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenia and Azerbaijan accused one another on Tuesday of firing directly into each other’s territory and rejected pressure to hold peace talks as their conflict over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh threatened to mushroom into all-out war.
    Both reported firing from the other side across their shared border, well to the west of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region over which fierce fighting broke out between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces on Sunday.
    The incidents signalled a further escalation of the conflict despite urgent appeals from Russia, the United States and others to halt it.
    The conflict has reignited concerns about stability in the South Caucasus region, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.
    Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, speaking to Russian state television, flatly ruled out any possibility of talks.    Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told the same channel they could not take place while fighting continued.
    Nagorno-Karabakh is a breakaway region inside Azerbaijan but run by ethnic Armenians and backed by Armenia.    It broke away from Azerbaijan in a 1990s war but is not recognised by any country as an independent republic.
    Dozens of people have been reported killed and hundreds wounded since clashes between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces broke out on Sunday, threatening to draw in neighbours including Azerbaijan’s close ally Turkey.
    After a closed-door discussion on Tuesday the 15-member U.N. Security Council “expressed concern” about the clashes, condemned the use of force and backed a call by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for an immediate halt to fighting.
    Further stoking tensions between the two former Soviet republics, Armenia said a Turkish F-16 fighter jet had shot down one of its warplanes over Armenian airspace, killing the pilot.
    It provided no evidence of the incident.    Turkey called the claim “absolutely untrue,” and Azerbaijan also denied it.
    “The international community should decisively condemn the aggression of Azerbaijan and the actions of Turkey and demand Turkey get out of this region,” Pashinyan told Russian state TV.
    “The military presence of Turkey in this region…will bring further escalation and expansion of the scale of the conflict.”
    Azeri leader Aliyev accused Armenia of fabricating the plane incident.    “Turkey is not a party to the conflict, in no way participates in it and there is no need for this,” he said.
    Aliyev said Azerbaijan was calling up tens of thousands of reservists under a partial mobilisation announced on Monday.
    “We are able to punish the aggressor ourselves so that he would not even dare to look in our direction,” he said.
PUTIN APPEAL
    Any descent into all-out war could threaten to drag in not only Turkey, but Russia.    Moscow has a defence alliance with Armenia, but also enjoys close relations with Azerbaijan.
    The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone to Pashinyan for the second time since the start of the crisis and said all sides should take measures to de-escalate.    It has not made public any contacts between Putin and Aliyev.     The Kremlin said Moscow was in constant contact with Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan.    Any talk of providing military support for the opposing sides would only add fuel to the fire, it said.
    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted: “With casualties rapidly mounting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, the Trump Administration needs to call the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan immediately to de-escalate the situation.    It must also demand others – like Turkey – stay out of this conflict.”
RISING CASUALTIES
    Pashinyan told the BBC in an interview that Azeri forces had shelled villages and towns in Nagorno-Karabakh and inside Armenia itself on Tuesday.
    “There are casualties among both military and civilians.    Dozens are killed and hundreds are wounded,” he said.
    Azerbaijan’s prosecutor’s office said 12 Azeri civilians had so far been killed and 35 wounded by Armenian fire.    The Azeri side has not disclosed military casualties.
    Nagorno-Karabakh has reported the loss of at least 84 soldiers.
    “What can I say?    It’s a war.    We hear air raids several times a day and hide in bomb shelters,” Albert Voskanyan, a resident of the enclave’s capital Stepanakert, told Reuters.
    Armenian officials said earlier that a civilian was killed in an Azeri attack on the Armenian town of Vardenis, more than 20 km (12 miles) from Nagorno-Karabakh.    They said a bus caught fire in the town after being hit by an Azeri drone.
    Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said that from Vardenis the Armenian army had shelled the Dashkesan region inside Azerbaijan.    Armenia denied those reports.
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Riham Alkousaa in Berlin, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Moscow and Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Writing by Mark Trevelyan and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Heinrich and David Gregorio)
[Azerbaijan, a nation and former Soviet republic, is bounded by the Caspian Sea and Caucasus Mountains, which span Asia and Europe capital, Baku, is famed for its medieval walled Inner City and is a Muslim country and as Turkey is in conflict with Armenia and there is a history of a Turkish extincton attempt of Armenians in the past so this is what it is all about.].

9/29/2020 North Korea Tells U.N. That Now It Has ‘Effective War Deterrent’ It Will Focus On Economy by Michelle Nichols and David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: North Korean ambassador to the United Nations Kim Song speaks during a news conference in New York, U.S., October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – North Korea has a “reliable and effective war deterrent for self-defence” and will now focus on developing its economy, North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Kim Song said on Tuesday, though he acknowledged that international sanctions were a hindrance.
    Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Kim also said the “anti-epidemic situation in our country is now under safe and stable control” as a result of measures taken to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.    North Korea has said it has no confirmed cases, though some U.S. officials have cast doubt on that claim.
    Already weighed down by tough international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Pyongyang is also facing significant economic damage from strict border closures and other measures aimed at preventing a coronavirus outbreak and struggling to cope with damage from recent storms and flooding.
    “Based on its reliable guarantee for safeguarding the security of the state and people, the DPRK is now directing all its efforts to economic construction,” said Kim, using his country’s formal name – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
    “It is a matter of fact that we badly need an external environment favourable for economic construction,” he said.    “But, we cannot sell off our dignity just in a hope for brilliant transformation – the dignity which we have defended as valuable as our own life.    This is our steadfast position.”
    He said North Korea was still being threatened by military hardware like stealth fighters being used on the Korean Peninsula and “nuclear strike means of all kinds are directly aimed at the DPRK.”
    “Genuine peace can only be safeguarded when one possesses the absolute strength to prevent war itself,” Kim said.    “As we have obtained the reliable and effective war deterrent for self-defence by tightening our belts, peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the region are now firmly defended.”
    Independent U.N. sanctions monitors reported to the U.N. Security Council in August that North Korea was pressing on with its nuclear weapons program and several countries believe it has “probably developed miniaturized nuclear devices to fit into the warheads of its ballistic missiles.”
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have met three times since 2018, but failed to make progress on U.S. calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea’s demands for an end to sanctions.
    North Korea’s ruling party plans a congress in January to decide a new five-year plan, state media reported last month, after a party meeting noted serious delays in improving the national economy and living standards.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

9/30/2020 Pompeo To Visit East Asia Next Week Amid Frosty Ties With China by Humeyra Pamuk
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wears a protective face mask as he visits the Naval Support
Activity base at Souda, Crete, Greece September 29, 2020. Aris Messinis/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Japan, Mongolia and South Korea next week, the State Department announced on Tuesday, a crucial visit to solidify ties with the regional allies at a time when Washington’s relationship with China remains fraught.
    The visit is scheduled to take place Oct. 4 to 8 and will be Pompeo’s first time in East Asia since his trip to Thailand in July 2019.    After flying to Japan, he will visit Mongolia on Oct. 6 and South Korea on Oct. 7 and 8, the State Department said.
    As part of the trip on Oct. 6, Pompeo will participate in the second meeting of “Quad,” a gathering of foreign ministers from India, Australia and Japan.    The Quad engagement was revived in 2017 to deepen security cooperation and coordinate alternatives for regional infrastructure financing offered by China.
    Ties between China and the United States are at the lowest point in decades, with the world’s top two economies at loggerheads over issues ranging from China’s handling of the coronavirus to trade rivalries, new national security legislation in Hong Kong and tensions in the South China Sea.
    Pompeo’s trip comes in the run-up to the November election, with President Donald Trump making a tough approach to China an important foreign policy platform as he seeks a second term in office.
    A forceful and outspoken critic of China, Pompeo met Beijing’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, at a U.S. military base in Hawaii in June, but little progress was made and the ties continued to deteriorate.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Leslie Adler)

9/30/2020 Azerbaijan And Ethnic Armenian Forces Fight New Clashes, International Tension Mounts by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova
Local residents take shelter in a dugout during the fighting over the breakaway region of
Nagorno-Karabakh in the city of Terter, Azerbaijan September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov
    YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces fought new clashes on Wednesday in the biggest eruption of their decades-old conflict since the mid-1990s, and France and Turkey traded recriminations as international tensions mounted.
    Azerbaijan and the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh said there were attacks from both sides along the line of contact that divides them.
    Dozens have been reported killed and hundreds wounded in fighting that began on Sunday and has spread far beyond the enclave’s borders, threatening to spill into all-out war between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
    The fighting has increased concerns about stability in the South Caucasus region, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets, and raised fears that regional powers Russia and Turkey could be drawn in.
    Some of Turkey’s NATO allies are increasingly alarmed by Ankara’s stance on Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region inside Turkey’s close ally Azerbaijan that is run by ethnic Armenians but is not recognised by any country as an independent republic.
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday Azerbaijan must take matters into its own hands and that Turkey would stand with it “with all its resources and heart.”
    Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated Ankara’s backing on Wednesday, saying Turkey would “do what is necessary” when asked whether it would offer military support if Azerbaijan requested it.
    Cavusoglu criticised France, which has many citizens of Armenian ancestry, saying French solidarity with Armenia amounted to supporting Armenian occupation in Azerbaijan.
    French President Emmanuel Macron hit back while visiting fellow NATO member Latvia.
    Macron said France was extremely concerned by “warlike messages from Turkey “which essentially remove any of Azerbaijan’s inhibitions in reconquering Nagorno-Karabakh.    And that we won’t accept.”
NEW REPORTS OF FIGHTING
    The U.N. Security Council called on Tuesday for an immediate end to the fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke away from Azerbaijan in the 1990s in a war that killed an estimated 30,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.
    Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who spoke by phone to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, said he was not considering asking for help under a post-Soviet security treaty now but did not rule out doing so.
    “Armenia will ensure its security, with the participation of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) or without it,” Russian news agencies quoted Pashinyan as saying.
    He said he and Putin had not discussed the possibility of Russian military intervention in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
    Russia has used the CSTO, along with the Eurasian Economic Union, another regional bloc focused on trade, to project influence across most of the former Soviet Union.
    The Azeri prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday seven more civilians had been wounded as a result of shelling of the city of Terter, which borders Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Its defence ministry said ethnic Armenian forces attempted to recover lost ground by launching counter-attacks in the direction of Madagiz, but Azeri forces repelled the attack.
    Armenia’s defence ministry said the Azeri army had been shelling the whole front line during the night and two Azeri drones were shot down in the town of Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh’s administrative centre.    It was not possible to independently confirm the report.
    Armenia’s unified information centre, an online governmental platform, posted pictures on Wednesday of the wreckage of what it said was a SU-25 warplane shot down by a Turkish fighter jet on Tuesday.
    Turkey has denied shooting down the plane.    An aide to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev accused Yerevan of lying about the incident, saying two Armenian SU-25s had crashed into a mountain and exploded.
(Reporting Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan; Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Timothy Heritage, Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

9/30/2020 Flight Of Hong Kong Protesters Piles Pressure On Taiwan by Reuters staff
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong anti-government protesters attend a rally in support of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen outside the
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan January 11, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
    TAIPEI/HONG KONG (Reuters) – For some Hong Kong protesters, stripped of their passports and facing criminal charges, a perilous 600 km sea journey to Taiwan is their only hope of escape.    For Taiwan, which has promised assistance to the people of Hong Kong but is wary of antagonising China, this brings a dilemma.
    People began fleeing to Taiwan from the early months of the Hong Kong protests last year, mostly legally by air, sometimes by fishing boat, said activists in Taipei who have helped Hong Kong citizens obtain visas.    Numbering a few hundred, they included people who took part in the pro-democracy protests, as well as clergy, social workers and others who offered care and support to protesters.
    This year, coronavirus-related travel restrictions and Hong Kong’s new security law, which was imposed on June 30 and handed the police and Chinese security agents sweeping powers, have narrowed the protesters’ options to leave and sharply reduced the numbers fleeing to Taiwan to a few dozen.    The most desperate are taking their chances by sea.
    In the past month, China stopped a boat carrying 12 people, and Taiwan intercepted a craft carrying five near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas     Islands in the South China Sea.    Several sources with knowledge of the smuggling operation said at least a dozen more pro-democracy activists have reached Taiwan by boat.
    These crossings have brought some “comfort” to the mostly young, pro-democracy activists who fled to Taiwan before the Hong Kong security law took effect, said one.    “We have always felt guilty about running away.”
    Those left behind in Hong Kong had two options – to face trial or to flee.    “It’s a choice between hope and hopelessness.    Of course some have chosen to risk their lives at sea.”
    This person and other activists, speaking on condition of anonymity, described a small-scale operation, organized by individuals in Hong Kong and Taiwan, to ferry protesters across the typhoon-prone South China Sea.    The few risking the journey have been charged with crimes such as arson and rioting by Hong Kong authorities and had their passports confiscated.    Hong Kong has so far charged over 600 people with rioting, which carries up to a 10-year jail term.
    The crossing, that can take more than a day, is fraught with risk. Driving a speedboat under cover of night brings the danger of collision with submerged rocks and buoys.    There is also the danger of detection.    In Hong Kong waters, police marine patrols are frequently seen among the fishing trawlers, container ships, pleasure craft and speedboats.    Stepped up Chinese military patrols and training exercises in the South China Sea around Hong Kong have increased the risk of interception.
    At least a dozen other protesters who possess travel documents, have come by air in recent months, despite the suspension of most Taiwan visa applications because of the coronavirus.    Taiwan said in June it would allow Hong Kong citizens to apply for entry for “special humanitarian considerations.”
    The Taiwan government declined to say how many people from Hong Kong have been granted residency or entry.    It has repeatedly said anyone who enters the country must do so legally.
    “I bought a return ticket and carried lots of luggage, trying everything I could to act like a normal traveller,” said one person who flew to Taiwan on a commercial flight, describing a trip hastily arranged before the Hong Kong security law came into force.    “It was such a relief the moment I boarded the Taiwanese aircraft.    I knew I was safe at last.”
SOLVING AN EQUATION
    The Taiwan government faces a difficult balancing act.    It wants to help Hong Kong citizens who flee to the island, legally or illegally, but it is increasingly wary of doing so in an overt way in case this prompts a forceful backlash from China – including possible military action, said three sources with direct knowledge of government thinking.
    Reuters questions to Taiwan’s government were referred to the Mainland Affairs Council, which oversees China and Hong Kong policy.    The Council declined to comment on what it called “rumours.”    It said in a statement that the government has established a mechanism of “humanitarian assistance” to give necessary help to those who are qualified, but it didn’t elaborate.
    “This is like solving a simultaneous equation,” said ruling Democratic Progressive Party parliamentarian Hung Sun-han, speaking on his own account.    “We need to give considerations to human rights, but we also need to handle the tense relations between China and Taiwan.”
    Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have spiked since President Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected by a landslide in January on a promise to stand up to Beijing, which has never renounced using force to bring self-ruled Taiwan under its control.
    Tsai pledged assistance to people arriving from Hong Kong, including setting up an office to help with employment, living allowances and counselling.    But that was several weeks before the introduction of Hong Kong’s security law, and little was known of its contents and implications.    The law makes anything Beijing regards as subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.
    More recently, Taiwan has been coy about the extent of the aid it has given.
    The Taiwan government has several concerns, according to the three sources.    It doesn’t want to be accused of helping people Beijing says are violent criminals.    Taiwan also fears Chinese military threats against the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands, two of the three sources said.
    One scenario Taiwan authorities fear is that China could seize Taiwan’s Pratas Islands – the Taiwan-controlled but lightly defended territory closest to Hong Kong – in a drastic escalation of tensions that could lead to a war, two senior officials familiar with the situation said.
    Taiwan has repeatedly complained of Chinese military activities in the area, including rare large-scale air and naval drills held near the Pratas Islands on September 9 and 10 which Taiwan called a serious provocation and Beijing described as a necessity to protect its sovereignty.
    In mid-September, during U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach’s visit to Taipei, China sent multiple jets to cross the sensitive midline of the Taiwan Strait and also into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone near the Pratas.    Taiwan says Chinese aircraft have continued to fly near the Pratas since then.
    A mainland Chinese official who spoke with Reuters said delicate diplomacy between Taiwan and China was needed, as a policy misstep could lead to military conflict.    “We never talk about war but we must be aware of this danger,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
    At home in Taiwan, meanwhile, there is growing popular pressure for Tsai’s government to do more to help Hong Kong citizens, for instance by introducing a law that would guarantee refuge to Hong Kong citizens and by promising not to detain people arriving illegally by boat.
    The three people familiar with government thinking described a strategy of offering support discreetly, what some call “do more, say less.”    They said Taiwan is offering concrete help – entry visas for instance – without drawing accusations from China of collusion with Hong Kong “separatists.”
    Nevertheless, reports of smuggling are “very tricky to handle and it has brought us a lot of trouble,” said one of the sources, speaking of growing pressure from China, without elaborating.    “But Taiwan will stick to the principle of not sending people back.”
    This source said Taiwan is “blurring out” details of what the government called “humanitarian assistance” to Hong Kong citizens so that it becomes impossible for the public and media to confirm reports of illegal entry.    “To rescue people, we need to stay as quiet as possible…Keeping it low profile is the only way to protect people.”
FUGITIVES AND CRIMINALS
    Pressure on Taiwan from Chinese politicians and state media is mounting.
    On Sept. 14, former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying questioned in a Facebook post why Taiwan withheld information on the whereabouts of the five people picked up by Taiwan’s coast guard near the Pratas Islands.    Leung, now the vice chairman of a high-level Chinese consultative committee, the CPPCC, told Reuters it was important to know the identities of the five to determine “if they are fugitives or have absconded from court proceedings.”    Hong Kong also expected to be told under what charges they were detained, whether they would now be released, prosecuted or deported and what access they have to legal assistance, he said.
    Also on Sept. 14, the Hong Kong Security Bureau, responsible for security and law enforcement, called on Taiwan not to “harbour criminals.”
    Separately, four officials at Taiwan’s de facto consulate in Hong Kong have been told by the Hong Kong government that their visas will not be renewed on the grounds that they refused to acknowledge Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of “one China,” Reuters reported in July.    All four have left the city.
    China’s Taiwan Affairs Office didn’t directly address a question from Reuters about the visa issue.    It said it supported the city government’s “handling of Taiwan related matters in Hong Kong.”    It accused authorities in Taipei of “colluding” with independence and anti-China forces.    “Any actions that bring chaos to Hong Kong or seek independence will be severely punished by the law,” it said.
    One of the three people with knowledge of the Taiwan government’s thinking explained, “We don’t want the Communist Party to find an excuse to take revenge on Taiwanese people in Hong Kong or China.    We want to offer real help” to Hong Kong citizens “without making ourselves vulnerable to China on the national security level.”
LOST AT SEA
    Those leaving Hong Kong by boat monitor weather conditions before they depart.    White capped waves and prevailing winds can hinder the passage, making it difficult to attain higher speeds and pushing up fuel consumption.
    The sources familiar with the smuggling operation described a dangerous route in which at least one boat that set off from Hong Kong had lost communications with their contacts.    “People kept searching and searching through all channels…But the fact was that they were lost,” said one of the people.
    There were no records of such trips and Reuters couldn’t independently verify the claim.
    Protesters, some of whom have made it to Taiwan, say they are grateful for Tsai’s pledges of help.
    “Taiwan isn’t just a place where they can take some respite.    It’s where they could gain strength to fight against China’s totalitarian rule,” said one of the people familiar with the smuggling operation.
(Reporting by Reuters staff; editing by Janet McBride)

9/30/2020 Protesters Clash With Police In India After Late Night Cremation Of Gang Rape Victim by Saurabh Sharma
A demonstrator is detained by police during a protest after the death of a rape victim, in front of
Uttar Pradesh state bhawan (building) in New Delhi, India, September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
    LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) – Protests erupted in several parts of India on Wednesday following the late night cremation of a gang rape victim, that was carried out against the wishes of her family.
    The 19-year-old victim from the Dalit community – the lowest rung of India’s ancient caste system – was attacked and raped on Sept. 14 in a field near her home in Hathras district, 100 km (62-miles) from the capital, New Delhi, authorities said.
    She died in hospital on Tuesday from injuries sustained during the attack.    Police have arrested four men in connection with the rape.
    The victim’s brother told Reuters neither police nor government officials sought the permission of the family to perform the last rites of the victim in her native village in Uttar Pradesh state at about 2 a.m. (0730 GMT) on Wednesday.
    “We begged the authorities and police that we wanted to perform the last rites in the morning but they did not listen to us and the last rites were performed by them,” he said.
    “We were put behind the barricades they formed using the police force.    We could not even see the face of our dead sister.”
    The victim and her brother are not being identified due to laws against naming victims of sexual violence.
    Police and government officials in the woman’s home district did not respond to requests for comment.
    The crime has caused outrage in India, where violence against women and those of lower castes is endemic.    The victim’s brother said the accused men were all members of an upper caste in the village.
    Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, ranks as the most unsafe state for women in the country.
    Protesters in Hathras were met by police who charged them with batons, a witness said.
    Angry protesters, many wearing masks to ward off the novel coronavirus, scuffled with police in New Delhi while in Kolkota, protesters burned a big picture of Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh who is also a hardline Hindu priest.
    Adityanath has ordered a high-level police enquiry into the incident.
(Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Robert Birsel)

9/30/2020 U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Inspects Second Iranian Site As Agreed With Tehran
    VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog has inspected the second of two suspected former secret atomic sites in Iran, as agreed with Tehran last month in a deal that ended a standoff over access, the agency said on Wednesday.
    The International Atomic Energy Agency has not named either of the two undeclared sites but it has described activities it suspects took place there in 2003, the year when it and U.S. intelligence services believe Iran halted a secret and coordinated nuclear weapons programme.
    Although the IAEA says it has the power to carry out snap inspections anywhere in Iran it deems necessary, Tehran had denied it access to the two sites for seven months until the deal was struck for access on specific dates this month.
    “As part of an agreement with Iran to resolve safeguards implementation issues specified by the IAEA, the Agency this week conducted a complementary access at the second location in the country and took environmental samples,” the IAEA said in a statement.
    Those samples and others taken at the first site will be sent to labs and analysed for traces of nuclear material, since the agency’s main task is to account for all nuclear material in a country to ensure it is not being used to make weapons.
    Iran denies ever having had a nuclear weapons programme.
    It could take several months for the results of the sample analysis to be available.    By then the U.S. presidential election will have been held, which should determine whether Donald Trump remains in office and continues to seek to dismantle Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.
    Iran has denounced “attempts to open an endless process of verifying and cleaning-up of ever-continuing fabricated allegations”, strongly suggesting the IAEA was seeking access based on information Israel says it seized from Iran.
    The IAEA says it verifies all information and takes none at face value.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Gareth Jones and Nick Macfie)

10/1/2020 Hong Kong Police Prevent Protest March On China National Day by Jessie Pang and Scott Murdoch
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam raises a glass during a ceremony marking China’s National Day at Grand Hall in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong riot police patrolled the route of a banned anti-government march on Thursday, preventing crowds from gathering as Chief Executive Carrie Lam cheered the city’s “return to stability” at China national day celebrations.
    Protesters wanted to march against Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping national security law on June 30 and demand the return of 12 Hong Kong people China arrested at sea in August on their way to self-ruled Taiwan.
    Police had banned the protest, citing coronavirus-related restrictions on group gatherings and violence at previous marches.    Shoppers and passersby still broke into pro-democracy chants sporadically, but there was no sign of large crowds.
    “It’s China’s national day but this is Hong Kong’s death day,” said Jay, a woman dressed in black, the city’s protest attire, as she walked past police.
    “Hong Kong people are under a lot of pressure but we have to try and keep fighting for freedom.”
    Officers, in their hundreds, conducted stop-and-search activities and kept cordoning off areas, while warning people not to linger.    The streets of the prime Causeway Bay shopping area were filled with police and reporters.
    Police sent away any people who looked suspicious to them: one teenager playing protest songs into a woodwind instrument; a man dressed in black and holding a yellow balloon – colours associated with pro-democracy supporters; a woman holding a copy of the Apple Daily anti-government tabloid.
    Earlier in the day, Lam attended a flag raising ceremony with other senior Hong Kong and mainland officials in an exhibition centre surrounded by police and security barriers.
    “Over the past three months, the plain truth is, and it is obvious to see, that stability has been restored to society while national security has been safeguarded, and our people can continue to enjoy their basic rights and freedoms,” Lam said.
    Late on Wednesday, police said they had arrested five people for inciting participation in illegal assemblies online.
    Anti-government protests, which often turned violent in 2019, have been smaller and fewer this year due to coronavirus restrictions on group gatherings and fears of arrest under the new security law.
    The law punishes anything China sees as subversion, separatism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
    “The government is using the national security laws and the pandemic to suppress our hearts,” said 52-year-old Mandy as she was shopping with her husband.
    “People are in no mood to celebrate."
‘NATIONAL MOURNING’
    Four members of the League of Social Democrats, led by veteran activist Leung Kwok-hung, known as Long Hair, marched holding a banner reading “There is no national day celebration, only national mourning.”
    Groups of four are the largest allowed under coronavirus restrictions.
    A sore point for democracy supporters has been the capture of 12 Hong Kong people by Chinese authorities, now in detention in the mainland city of Shenzhen, having been arrested for illegal border crossing and organising cross-border crimes.
    All were suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong related to last year’s protests.
    Stickers demanding their return were plastered on shop windows in the area where police was trying to prevent protests.
    China’s national day is resented by many democracy supporters who say Beijing is eroding the wide-ranging liberties the former British colony was promised when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    For pro-Beijing supporters, it is an opportunity to drum up patriotism in China’s most restive city.
    At the ceremony, Lam praised China’s success in curbing the coronavirus and its economic recovery, calling it “a rare bright spot” which “has shown once again the shift of the global economic focus from the West to the East.”
(Reporting by Jessie Pang, Scott Murdoch, Yanni Chow, Carol Mang, Sharon Tam, Pak Yiu, Joyce Zhou, Yoyo Chow, Aleksander Solum and Tyrone Siu; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

10/1/2020 ‘Over Our Hearts’: Confiscated Plaque Becomes Emblem Of Thai Democracy Push by Patpicha Tanakasempipat
FILE PHOTO: Student protest leader Panupong Jadnok, also known as Mike Rayong, places a sticker declaring
"This country belongs to the people" during a mass rally to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and reforms
in the monarchy in front of parliament in Bangkok, Thailand September 24, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Authorities removed it swiftly, but a brass plaque proclaiming Thailand belongs to the people and not the king has rapidly become the emblem of a pro-democracy protest movement – appearing everywhere from t-shirts to key rings to tattoos.
    The 11-inch (28 cm) plaque was removed in darkness less than a day after activists cemented it near Bangkok’s Grand Palace last week, demanding reforms to curb the powerful monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, until recently a taboo subject.
    But reproductions of the plaque, featuring the three-finger salute used by Thai anti-junta activists since a 2014 coup, have since proliferated.
    “If you thought you could just make the plaque disappear, you were wrong,” said Anchalee Suebsang-in, 27, an office worker who posted t-shirt designs featuring the plaque on a Facebook page within hours of hearing it had gone.    She soon had over 1,000 orders.
    “It can still appear anywhere, like on T-shirts, right over our hearts,” Anchalee told Reuters.
    The plaque reads “…this country belongs to the people and is not the property of the monarch as they have deceived us.”
    It resembles another plaque commemorating the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 that was removed from outside a royal palace in 2017.
    The palace did not comment on the plaque and has made no comment on more than two months of anti-government protests.
    Some protesters want to reduce the king’s powers and control over palace finances and key army units along with the broader protest movement’s goals of removing former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister and drawing up a new constitution.
    Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri declined to comment on the merchandise with plaque designs.
    Anchalee sold each T-shirt for 247.50 baht, a nod to the year 1932 – or 2475 in the Buddhist Era calendar.
    Smaller trinkets like keychains go for 112 baht, referring to Section 112 of the criminal code that prohibits insulting the king and which the protesters want scrapped.
ROYAL FIELD
    The plaque, placed on the area next to the palace known as Sanam Luang – the Royal Field – was the work of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) protest group.    They declined to identify a specific artist.
    Even before the plaque was removed, they published digital files on the internet so anyone could reproduce it.
    “The plaque wasn’t just planted on Sanam Luang, but also in the hearts of the people, so it’s no surprise that it would reappear everywhere,” UFTD leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak told Reuters.
    Thai activists in Germany placed a replica plaque outside the king’s residence there.
    Sellers said they would donate the profits to the UFTD protest group, while some would also contribute a separate fund set up to help pay expected legal expenses.    Several leaders have already been charged over earlier protests.
    The protesters challenge Prayuth’s legitimacy, saying elections last year were engineered to keep him in power.    He says they were democratic.
    The plaque has not only reappeared in physical form.    It is available as Instagram filters that allow users to place it anywhere.
    “They tried to censor history and take it away from the people, but they can’t catch up with us,” said game design student Tarathorn Boonngamanong, 22, whose filters have been viewed more than 4 million times.
    The proliferation of the plaque reflected the scale of the challenge to the monarchy as taboos were broken by protesters, said James Buchanan, a lecturer at Bangkok’s Mahidol University International College.
    “They feel like they’re taking the first steps towards really challenging or limiting the power of the monarchy,” he told Reuters.
    For Mai and Berm, two friends who have sold over 2,500 plaque key chains on Facebook, the plaque symbolises a promise for change.
    “We can’t achieve that now, but it shows that we’re determined to get there,” said Mai, 24, declining to give his full name due to fears of reprisal.
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Jane Wardell)

10/2/2020 Myanmar’s COVID Quarantine Campaign Raises Questions Over Election by Thu Thu Aung
Aspiring lawmaker Maw Htun Aung prepares a Facebook broadcast for his campaign ahead of November 8 general election, as
he stays in a quarantine center in Kutkai, Shan State, Myanmar October 1, 2020. Maw Htun Aung/Handout via REUTERS
    YANGON (Reuters) – From a quarantine centre in northern Myanmar, aspiring lawmaker Maw Htun Aung, wearing a bright yellow surgical mask, lays out his plan for an upcoming general election in a Facebook broadcast.
    The 37-year old is running his campaign from one of the state-run facilities in which about 45,000 people across the Southeast Asian country have been quarantined, one of a multitude of challenges confronting political parties as Myanmar pushes ahead with the Nov. 8 vote, despite a growing novel coronavirus outbreak.
    Maw Htun Aung, serving mandatory quarantine after travelling within the country, is canvassing by telephone but says nothing can replace face-to-face contact with voters.
    “I want to listen to their voices, expectations.    I want to answer their questions and explain to them in person,” he said.
    Myanmar’s coronavirus infections have rocketed from a few hundred in mid-August to more than 13,000, with more than 300 deaths, triggering strict lockdowns.
    The outbreak has raised questions about the viability of the election as authorities pour resources into fighting the virus and lockdowns leave candidates unable to campaign as normal and international observers shut out of the country.
    A government spokesman and representatives of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.
FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN
    The main challenger to leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, and 23 other opposition parties have called for the polls to be postponed.    But Suu Kyi said in a broadcast this week the election was “more important than COVID.”
    The parliamentary term is constitutionally bound to end on Jan. 31 and if no election is held before then it would be without a legislature, raising the possibility of a constitutional crisis.
    Myanmar’s electoral agency said it would increase the number of polling stations to prevent overcrowding but it has given few other details about measures it is taking.    A spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment.
    With domestic travel and big gatherings banned and lockdowns in the commercial capital of Yangon as well as the western state of Rakhine, many candidates have moved campaigns online.
    It is a far cry from the jubilant rallies during the 2015 election campaign that brought the NLD to power, the first civilian government in half a century.
    Suu Kyi remains hugely popular and looks set to win, though probably without the same level of support she got in 2015, as frustration with her government grows in ethnic minority areas.
    But Richard Horsey, a Myanmar-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the reliance on social media would give a “huge incumbent boost” to the NLD and Suu Kyi, whose Facebook page is the most popular in the country.
    In places where the internet is limited or curbed, including Rakhine State, where authorities restricted access while government troops battle ethnic minority insurgents, little campaigning is going on.
    “We have too many obstacles,” said Myo Kyaw, the general secretary of a party in the state, the Arakan League for Democracy.    “We cannot go in person, we cannot communicate via social media.”
‘NOT FREE AND FAIR’
    Flights into Myanmar are banned and the government has not said how foreign journalists can enter to cover the vote.    The European Union has said it will not send an observer mission while the U.S-based Carter Center is hiring only Myanmar citizens.
    Myanmar journalists are not exempt from stay-at-home orders and the government had announced no plans to help media cover the election, said Zeyar Hlaing, a Press Council member.
    Ye Myo Hein, an analyst at the Tagaung Institute of Political Studies, said absence of observers could impact the polls’ fairness, while opposition candidates have complained that coronavirus restrictions are not being enforced fairly.
    Monywa Aung Shin, a senior NLD official, stirred controversy by telling media that authorities would not punish his party’s supporters for rallying in breach of the ban.    He did not answer phone calls seeking comment.
    “We don’t even have a chance to put up signboards,” said Htoot May, an independent candidate in Yangon.
    “It will not be free and fair,” she said.
(Reporting by Thu Thu Aung, writing and additional reporting by Poppy McPherson; Editing by Robert Birsel)

10/2/2020 Thailand’s ‘Bad Students’ Demand Education Reform by Jiraporn Kuhakan and Chayut Setboonsarng
Students take part in a rally of the Bad Student movement demanding the education minister's
resignation at a school in Bangkok, Thailand, October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Jiraporn Kuhakan
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s “Bad Student” campaigners toured Bangkok high schools in a truck on Friday in a protest cheered on by pupils to demand education reform and an end to the harassment of students and of school rules they say are outdated.
    The school demonstrations are part of an anti-government protest movement that has been growing since July and is also demanding greater democracy.    Some campaigners seek reforms to the powerful monarchy too.
    “Stop the harassment of students, cancel outdated rules, and give us comprehensive education reform,” said Laponpat Wangpaisit, an activist from the group that calls itself “Bad Student” outside one Bangkok school.
    From behind school gates, pupils cheered the protesters, sang songs mocking school rules and gave the three-finger salute of pro-democracy campaigners.    At one school, pupils put a sign on the gate saying: “Teachers at this school harass students.”
    The protesters were later due to go to the education ministry to demand the resignation of the minister if he does not agree to their demands.    The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the protests.
    Student campaigners complain that Thailand’s school system is geared more towards instilling obedience than education.
    Concerns over the harsh treatment of pupils have risen this week after the emergence of closed-circuit camera footage of teachers hitting very young children.    The clips prompted outrage and calls for measures to be taken against the schools.
(Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Janet Lawrence)

10/2/2020 Armenia Says Ready To Engage With OSCE To Re-Establish Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire
FILE PHOTO: The remains of a rocket shell are seen near a graveyard in the town of Ivanyan (Khojaly) in
the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, October 1, 2020. Vahram Baghdasaryan/Photolure via REUTERS
    YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenia’s foreign ministry said on Friday it was ready to engage with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to re-establish a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, where fighting has been raging since Sunday.
    France, Russia and the United States, co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group, set up in 1992 to mediate in the conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians over the mountainous enclave in the South Caucasus, called for an immediate ceasefire on Thursday.    But Turkey said the three big powers should have no role in peace moves.
(Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

10/2/2020 North Korea’s Kim Tours Flood-Hit Town, Sister Reappears In Public
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects sites of reconstruction in Kimhwa County, in this
image released by North Korea's Central News Agency on October 1, 2020. KCNA/via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected recovery efforts in a flooded village, his latest visit to areas damaged by recent typhoons, while his sister reappeared in public for the first time in about two months, state media said on Friday.
    Kim praised the speed of reconstruction work in Kimhwa County in the country’s southeast during the visit with Kim Yo Jong, KCNA reported. He said of the storms and other natural disasters, “This year has been one of unprecedentedly hardships.”
    The younger Kim, considered the de facto second in command, is believed to be in her early 30s and is the leader’s only close relative with a public role in politics.    She became prominent with her harsh rhetoric against South Korea.
    Summer storms and floods have hit North Korea hard, destroying thousands of homes and raising concerns of a worsening of the country’s chronic food shortages.
    While praising the recovery, Kim said he “felt regretful” that new houses in the area were of a “monotonous” design.    Earlier, state media had called the cookie-cutter houses a model of the “socialist fairyland,” advertising the regime’s recovery efforts after thousands of homes were destroyed by floods.
    Kim’s comments were the latest official criticism in the tightly controlled country, where socialist glorification in the norm.
    In recent weeks state media said Pyongyang had discovered “faults” in its efforts to battle COVID-19, and Kim offered a rare apology for North Korea’s killing a South Korean official in waters off the west coast of the peninsula.
    On Friday, the ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun featured Kim’s tour, showing lines of houses with red roofs and beige and white walls.
    Kim said that although speed was important, he wished “artistic harmony with the surrounding environment and diversity had been appropriately combined,” KCNA said.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by William Mallard)

10/2/2020 China’s U.S. Envoy Says U.S.-China Relations Must Be Put On Right Track by David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: China's ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai responds to reporters questions
during an interview with Reuters in Washington, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Chinese ambassador to Washington said on Thursday that China’s relations with the United States were facing “severe difficulties” and the two countries should lose no time in putting them on the right track.
    Ambassador Cui Tiankai told a virtual ceremony to mark China’s National Day that Beijing was willing to develop relations with Washington with “goodwill and sincerity.”
    “The China-U.S. relationship is experiencing severe difficulties rarely seen in the past 41 years of diplomatic ties,” Cui said.
    He said there were those who were trying to stoke up economic decoupling of the two countries and “incite ideological confrontation and a new Cold War.”
    “This seriously undermines the fundamental interests of the Chinese and American people.    … We believe that a sound and stable China-U.S. relationship is in the interests of both countries,” he said.
    “We are willing to develop our relations with the U.S. with goodwill and sincerity, and the two countries should lose no time in taking bilateral relations onto the right track, of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation.”
    Cui’s comments come at a time when China-U.S. relations have sunk to the lowest point in decades in the run-up to President Donald Trump’s Nov. 3 re-election bid.    The world’s two biggest economies have clashed over issues ranging from trade, technological and security rivalry to human rights and the coronavirus, which began in China.
    In an address to the U.N. General Assembly last week, Trump demanded China be held accountable for having “unleashed” COVID-19 on the world, while Chinese President Xi Jinping called for enhanced cooperation over the pandemic and stressed that Beijing had no intention of fighting “either a Cold War or a hot war with any country.”
    At the United Nations on Thursday, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos used a virtual U.N. meeting on a landmark 1995 women’s conference in Beijing to accuse China of “the murder of millions of baby girls through brutal population controls.”
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)

10/2/2020 Armenia Says It Is Ready To Work For Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova
A view shows cars that were allegedly damaged by recent shelling during a military conflict over the breakaway region of
Nagorno-Karabakh in Stepanakert, in this handout picture released October 2, 2020. David Ghahramanyan/Armenian Unified Infocentre/Handout via REUTERS
    YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – Armenia said on Friday it would work with Russia, the United States and France on renewing a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh as the death toll rose on the sixth day of fighting over the breakaway enclave in the South Caucasus.
    Azerbaijan, which is fighting ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, has not responded to a call for a ceasefire on Thursday by the three countries – co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, which mediates in the crisis.
    Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev ruled out talks with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday and Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey said on Thursday the three big powers should have no role in peacemaking.
    “It is obvious that Armenia is not interested in resolving the conflict through negotiations and is trying to annex the occupied territories,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said.
    Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke on Friday over the phone with France’s President Emmanuel Macron about the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, the government in Yerevan said.
    The two sides agreed that any use of foreign fighters and terrorists in the conflict was unacceptable, and Macron called for an immediate ceasefire, it said in a statement.
    Armenia and Azerbaijan accuse each other of using foreign mercenaries in military operations.
    Pashinyan also talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    In a third phone call in the six days since fighting broke out, Putin and Pashinyan expressed serious concern about the involvement of what the Kremlin termed illegal armed groups from the Middle East in the fighting.
    Putin reiterated the need for an immediate ceasefire.
    More fighting was reported overnight and throughout Friday.    Nagorno-Karabakh’s defence ministry reported 55 new military casualties, taking the death toll among its forces to 147.
SHELLING
    Twenty one civilian have been reported killed and more than 60 wounded in the mountainous enclave, which is part of Azerbaijan but is run by its mostly ethnic Armenian inhabitants.
    The Azeri prosecutor’s office said 20 civilians had so far been killed and 55 wounded in Armenian shelling.    Azerbaijan has not reported on casualties among its military forces.
    The OSCE called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to enable the repatriation of the remains of fallen servicemen.
    Clashes broke out on Sunday between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.    The enclave is not recognised internationally as independent, and has been the subject of conflict since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
    The fighting is more serious that at any time since a war in the 1990s in which 30,000 people were killed, and has deepened concern about stability in the South Caucasus, a region where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets.
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said European Union leaders discussed the crisis at a summit in Brussels and said a ceasefire was needed as soon as possible.
    Armenia’s foreign ministry said the country was “committed to a resolution of the conflict through peaceful means.”
    “We will continue to adamantly repel Azerbaijan’’s aggression but, at the same time, are also ready to engage with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs on a ceasefire based on the agreements of 1994-1995,” it said, referring to an earlier ceasefire.
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday a lasting ceasefire could be achieved only if “Armenian occupiers” withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh.    Aliyev has said Armenia’s demands over Nagorno-Karabakh are unacceptable.
EVERYONE … IS AFFECTED
    Pashinyan told U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien by telephone that a ceasefire would be impossible unless “mercenaries and terrorists” are removed from Nagorno-Karabakh.
    France has accused Turkey of sending Syrian mercenaries to the tiny enclave and Russia has expressed concern about the alleged deployment of fighters from Syria and Libya.    Turkey and Azerbaijan have dismissed those accusations.
    Each side accused the other of mounting new attacks on civilian targets on Friday, including by firing across their shared border which is well to the west of Nagorno-Karabakh.
    All-out war over Nagorno-Karabakh would risk drawing in regional powers Russia, which has a military base in majority Christian Armenia, and Turkey, which has said it will stand by mainly Muslim Azerbaijan.
    Civilians across the region are increasingly worried.
    Cahanquba Quliyeva, a 28-year-old architect in the Azeri capital Baku, said she was worried her husband and brother would be called up to fight.    “We only saw this in the movies.    And now we are going through that ourselves in real life,” she said.
    In Yerevan, food technologist Eduard Vlasyan, 30, said: “At the moment this is a full-scale war.    If we give Karabakh to them, they will demand Armenia next time.”
(Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow, Writing by Timothy Heritage and Mark Trevelyan, Editing by William Maclean)

10/2/2020 China Accuses U.S. At U.N. Of Trying To Take World Back To ‘Jungle Age’ by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near the Bund in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – China accused the United States on Friday of “fabricating lies” and trying to take the world back to the “jungle age” after Washington blamed Beijing and U.N. agencies for “the murder of millions of baby girls.”
    The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Friday said it regretted the accusations by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, which were made at a U.N. General Assembly meeting on Thursday on the anniversary of a landmark 1995 women’s conference.
    UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem told reporters that any coercion of women was “against our practice and policy.”
    “We accord the highest priority to voluntary sexual and reproductive health, rights, and procedures,” she said.    “We have invited reviews of, in the case of UNFPA, our practice and procedures in the country of China, and for the past four years, the United States has not visited our programs.”
    U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration cut funding in 2017 for UNFPA, saying it “supports … a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”    The United Nations said that was an inaccurate perception.
    DeVos and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who issued a statement on Thursday, both accused China of subjecting Uighurs and other minorities to forced abortion, forced sterilization, and involuntary implantation of birth control devices.
    A spokesperson for China’s U.N. mission in New York said in a statement that the remarks were “sheer fabrication.”
    “Some U.S. politicians lie and cheat as a habit,” the spokesperson said.    “They maliciously create political confrontation and undermine multilateral cooperation.    The United States, going against the trend of the times, is becoming the biggest destroyer of the existing international order and trying all means to take the world back to the ‘jungle age.'
    Long-simmering tensions between the United States and China have hit the boiling point at the United Nations over the coronavirus pandemic, spotlighting Beijing’s bid for greater multilateral influence in a challenge to Washington’s traditional leadership.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

10/2/2020 Pompeo Visit Shows Strong U.S. Commitment To Asia, Stilwell Says by Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wears a face mask during his visit
in Dubrovnik, Croatia, October 2, 2020. Darko Bandic/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Asia next week demonstrates Washington’s strong commitment to allies and partners in the region, the top American diplomat for East Asia, David Stilwell, said on Friday.
    Pompeo said earlier on Friday he would go ahead with the trip to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia, even after President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.
    In a briefing call on the trip for reporters, Stilwell said the United States saw the decision by new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to host Pompeo as a reaffirmation of an ever-strengthening partnership.
    Stilwell said a ministerial meeting of the Quad grouping of the United States, Japan, Australia and India next Tuesday would probably not produce a joint statement, adding that the group has shared values, but different perspectives.
    Stilwell called the U.S.-Japan relationship “the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific” region.
    He said the Quad, which China has denounced as an attempt to contain its development, was focused on furthering “a shared vision of a free open and inclusive Indo-Pacific …" “especially as (China’s) tactics of aggression and coercion, increase in the region.”
    Recent discussions among the Quad had focused on building cooperation on issues including maritime security and on critical technology, infrastructure and counterterrorism, Stilwell said.
    However, when asked whether the four-way grouping would issue a joint statement, Stilwell said: “I think you’ll see public availability related to this, as far as a joint statement, probably not.”
    He said there were a lot of areas for discussion, but these could be “freeform as well.”
    “This is the wonderful thing about the Quad … we have shared values, but different perspectives, and from those come great ideas and elegant solutions.”
    China-U.S. relations have sunk to the lowest point in decades in the run-up to the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election.
    The world’s two biggest economies have clashed over issues ranging from trade, technological and security rivalry to human rights and the response to the coronavirus, which first surfaced in China late last year.
    Washington’s allies and partners in Asia share U.S. concerns about China’s increasingly assertive behavior and extensive territorial claims, but analysts say they have been concerned about the tone of some of Pompeo and Trump’s rhetoric against Beijing.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Paul Simao)

10/3/2020 Armenian Prime Minister On Conflict With Azerbaijan: Their Goal Is Genocide by OAN Newsroom
In this image made from UNTV video, Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played
during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, at U.N. headquarters in New York. (UNTV via AP)
    Armenia’s prime minister recently addressed the conflict with Azerbaijan by saying the scale of the attacks is unprecedented.    On Saturday, Nikol Pashinyan warned the Azerbaijani army was being helped by around 150 Turkish special forces members and Syrian terrorists.
    Tensions between the two countries led to clashes last week amid a territorial dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
    The prime minister has alleged the Azerbaijan led forces are trying to destroy the Armenian people.
    “Azerbaijani-Turkish bandits are not only pursuing military or military-political issues, they have not come only to occupy territories, villages or cities,” stated Pashinyan.    “Their goal is to continue their policy of Armenian genocide.”
A view of an apartment building that was allegedly damaged by recent shelling during fighting over the breakaway
region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Tartar region, Azerbaijan, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Aziz Karimov)
    The leader encouraged residents to remain hopeful and claimed Armenia will come out on top.
    In the meantime, countries and organizations around the world are calling for a ceasefire between the two countries.

10/3/2020 Car Bomb In Eastern Afghanistan Leaves 6 Dead, Dozens Injured by OAN Newsroom
Afghan stand after a truck bomb attack in Ghanikhil district, Nangarhar province,
east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)
    At least six people are dead and dozens more were injured following a car bomb attack on a government building in eastern Afghanistan.    According to reports, the vehicle exploded outside the entrance to the district headquarters.
    Several armed attackers reportedly tried to enter the building soon after, but were killed by security forces. Several civilians were listed among the victims.
    As of Saturday afternoon, no group had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Security personnel arrive at the site of a truck bomb attack in Ghanikhil district, Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020.
A suicide truck bomb attack on Saturday killed at least dozen people in eastern Afghanistan, government officials said. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)
    “The attackers carried out a suicide car bomb attack with a Mazda-type vehicle, which unfortunately killed 14 people, including a woman, four children and a soldier,” explained government spokesman Attaullah Khugyani.    “42 others, including four security forces, 38 children and elderly men, were injured.”
    The attack comes amid negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government to end the conflict in the country.

10/3/2020 Azerbaijan Claims Advances In Karabakh, Armenia Vows Historic Struggle by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova
A view shows an apartment building that was allegedly damaged by recent shelling during a military conflict over the
breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Stepanakert October 3, 2020. David Ghahramanyan/NKR InfoCenter/PAN Photo Handout
    YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – Armenia said on Saturday it would use “all necessary means” to protect ethnic Armenians from attack by Azerbaijan, which said its forces had captured a string of villages in fighting over the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Ignoring a French attempt to mediate, the opposing sides pounded each other with rockets and missiles for a seventh day in the newest flare-up of a decades-old conflict that threatens to draw in Russia and Turkey.
    The death toll rose to at least 230 in the fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan that broke away from its control in the 1990s.
    Each side said it had destroyed hundreds of the other’s tanks.    The Azeri side claimed gains, and President Ilham Aliyev sent congratulations to a military commander on the capture of a Karabakh village.
    “Today the Azeri army raised the flag of Azerbaijan in Madagiz.    Madagiz is ours,” Aliyev declared on social media.    He later announced the capture of seven more villages.
    Hundreds of people took to the streets of the Azeri capital Baku in celebration, waving flags and placards reading “Karabakh was and will be ours.”
    It was not possible to independently verify the situation on the ground.
    Armenian Defence Ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan said the situation was changing frequently.    “In such a large war such changes are natural.    We can take a position, then leave it in an hour,” he told reporters.
    Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told his countrymen in a televised address that fighting all along the front was intense.
    “As of now, we already have significant human losses, both military and civilian, large quantities of military equipment are no longer usable, but the adversary still has not been able to solve any of its strategic issues,” he said.
    Armenia’s armed forces have so far held back from entering the war alongside those of Nagorno-Karabakh.    But Pashinyan portrayed the conflict as a national struggle and compared it to the country’s war with Ottoman Turkey in the early 20th century.
    His Foreign Ministry said Armenia, as the guarantor of Nagorno-Karabakh’s security, would take “all the necessary means and steps” to prevent what it called “mass atrocities” by the forces of Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey.    A ministry spokeswoman declined to comment on what steps this could entail.
    The clashes are the worst since the 1990s, when some 30,000 people were killed.    They have raised international concern about stability in the South Caucasus, where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets.
PATIENCE RUNS OUT
    Apart from a four-day war in 2016 that killed about 200 people, the Karabakh region has mostly been calm for the past quarter-century, with Russia playing a balancing role as an ally of both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
    Now Azerbaijan, emboldened by Turkish backing, says it has run out of patience with decades of ineffective diplomacy that have failed to lead to the return of its lost territory.
    While Russia, the United States and France have called for an end to hostilities, Turkey has said Armenian “occupiers” must withdraw and rejected “superficial” demands for a ceasefire.
    Regional and military analysts say the Azeris lack the firepower to overrun Karabakh completely but may settle for territorial gains that will enable them to declare a victory and gain leverage in future negotiations.
    The two sides continued to trade accusations of foreign involvement, with Pashinyan saying Armenia had information that 150 high-ranking Turkish officers were helping to direct Azeri military operations.
    Both Turkey and Azerbaijan have repeatedly denied the involvement of Turkish forces, as well as assertions by Armenia, Russia and France that Syrian rebels are fighting on the Azeri side.
    Azerbaijan hit back, saying in a statement on Saturday that ethnic Armenians from Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Georgia, Greece and the United Arab Emirates had been deployed or were on their way to operate as “foreign terrorist fighters” on the ethnic Armenian side.
    Nagorno-Karabakh said 51 more of its servicemen had been killed, raising its total losses to 198.
    Azerbaijan says 19 of its civilians have been killed, but has not disclosed its military losses.    Eleven civilian deaths have been reported by Nagorno-Karabakh and two in Armenia.
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Frances Kerry and Giles Elgood)

10/3/2020 India’s Federal Police To Probe Alleged Gang Rape Of Woman Who Died Of Injuries: Statement by Saurabh Sharma
A demonstrator uses a lipstick to write on a billboard during a protest after the death
of a rape victim, in New Delhi, India, October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) – India’s federal police will investigate the alleged gang rape of a young woman in northern Uttar Pradesh state whose death sparked nationwide protests, the local government said in a statement on Saturday.
    The 19-year-old Dalit woman died of her injuries earlier this week, triggering protests by both opposition political parties and the public in New Delhi and elsewhere against atrocities against a community often ostracized under India’s centuries-old caste system.
    India is one of the world’s most dangerous places for women, with a rape occurring on average every 15 minutes based on federal data.    In December 2012, the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman sparked nationwide outrage and led to a tough new anti-rape law.
    The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, has asked federal police, the Central Bureau of Investigation, to investigate the alleged rape, which occurred in its Hathras district, a government statement said.
    Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has faced criticism in recent days for not allowing media and opposition parties to speak with the family of the dead woman.
    Public criticism grew after the family of the victim said her body had been cremated by police without their consent, an allegation officials deny. [nL4N2GR3LN]
    On Saturday, hundreds of police officers barricaded a highway connecting the capital New Delhi to Hathras.    Several opposition leaders also drove out to meet the victim’s family.
    In India’s eastern Kolkata and Bhubaneswar cities, political parties and women organisations marched in protest against the incident and demanded justice for the woman, video footage from ANI news agency showed.
(Reporting by Saurabh Sharma and Adnan Abidi; Writing by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Hugh Lawson)

10/3/2020 Schools And Mosques Closed In Tehran As COVID-19 Infections Rise
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (not pictured)
in Tokyo, Japan, December 20, 2019. Charly Triballeau/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Schools, libraries, mosques and other public institutions in Tehran were closed for a week on Saturday as part of measures to stem a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, state media cited authorities in the Iranian capital as saying.
    The closure plan, which will also affect universities, seminaries, libraries, museums, theatres, gyms, cafes and hair salons in the Iranian capital, came after Alireza Zali, head of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, called for the shutdown to help control the epidemic.
    Zali warned in an interview on state television that if the spread of the epidemic continues at the current rate in Tehran, there would be a three- to five-fold increase in cases and a rise in the fatality rate to between 1.5% and 3%.
    The lockdown which also applies to all social and cultural ceremonies and conferences will run to Friday Oct. 9.
    Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by 179 on Saturday to 26,746, and identified cases by 3,523 to 468,119, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV.
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said anyone concealing a COVID-19 infection should face a severe penalty.
    “Anyone who feels ill and it’s clear to them that they are ill, must not hide their illness,” Rouhani said in televised remarks.    Otherwise, he added, they will be committing “the highest offense” that will demand “the highest punishment.”
    Those not wearing a mask in public will be fined, said Rouhani, adding the amount of fines and other penalties will be determined at the next meeting of the government-run Coronavirus Taskforce.
    Government employees who fail to observe regulations face measures ranging from warnings to their one-year suspension from their posts.    And government offices where people go for services cannot serve people who do not observe health protocols, such as wearing masks.
    Businesses that flout regulations could face closure.
    Rouhani said penalties would be most severe in Tehran, where in recent weeks the daily death toll from the coronavirus has been more than 100 compared with less than 10 at the end of the first wave of the virus earlier this year, according to Zali.
    Iran has registered more than 3,500 new cases in each of the past six days, with a record 3,825 cases announced on Thursday, official statistics showed.
(Additional reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by David Holmes)

10/4/2020 Azerbaijan Says Armenian Forces Shell Second City In Escalation Of Week-Long Conflict by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
FILE PHOTO: A shop is seen on fire following recent shelling during a military conflict over
the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Stepanakert October 3, 2020. Gor Kroyan/REUTERS
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azerbaijan said on Sunday that Armenian forces had shelled its second city of Ganja in an escalation of the war in the South Caucasus that broke out one week ago.
    Armenia denied that it had directed fire “of any kind” towards Azerbaijan, but the leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan, said his forces had destroyed a military airbase in Ganja.
    The escalation carries the risk of a full-scale war between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia that could drag in other powers.    Azerbaijan is supported by Turkey, while Armenia has a defence pact with Russia.
    Fighting that broke out one week ago between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces has intensified in the past two days and spread way beyond the breakaway Karabakh region.
    “Delivering fire on the territory of Azerbaijan from the territory of Armenia is clearly provocative and expands the zone of hostilities,” Azeri Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov said.
    Ganja, with a population of 335,000, is about 100 km (60 miles) north of the Karabakh capital Stepanakert and 80 km from the Armenian city of Vardenis.    Azerbaijan has previously accused Armenia of firing into its territory from Vardenis, and Yerevan has denied it.
    Armenia says Azerbaijan has used the airport in Ganja as a base for its warplanes to carry out bombing raids on Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan said his forces would target Azeri cities.
    “Permanent military units located in the large cities of Azerbaijan from now on become the targets of the defence army,” he said.
HEAVY CASUALTIES
    Casualties from the past week’s fighting have run into the hundreds, although precise figures are impossible to obtain.
    Armenia said the Karabakh cities of Stepanakert and Martakert were under attack by Azerbaijan’s air force and from long-range missiles.
    Each side accused the other of targeting civilians.
    Ignoring appeals from Russia, the United States, France and the EU to call a ceasefire, the opposing sides have stepped up hostilities over the weekend, with an accompanying rise in aggressive rhetoric.
    Armenia said on Saturday it would use “all necessary means” to protect ethnic Armenians from attack by Azerbaijan, and its prime minster compared the struggle with a 20th century war against Ottoman Turkey.
    Azerbaijan said on Saturday its forces had captured a string of villages.    Armenia acknowledged that ethnic Armenian fighters were under pressure in some places and said the situation on the ground was fluctuating.
    The clashes are the worst since the 1990s, when some 30,000 people were killed.    They have raised international concern about stability in the South Caucasus, where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets.
(Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova; writing by Margarita Antidze and Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

10/4/2020 Myanmar Volunteers Under Strain As Coronavirus Toll Grows by Sam Aung Moon and Thu Thu Aung
A volunteer wearing a protective suit stands as he waits to transfer suspect cases to a quarantine center amid the
outbreak of the coronavirus diseases (COVID-19), in Yangon, Myanmar, October 3, 2020. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin
    YANGON (Reuters) – As Myanmar’s coronavirus infections soar, the work never seems to stop for volunteers who have stepped in to help carry those suspected of symptoms to quarantine centres or hospitals.
    “The situation is not good. Our ambulances and crews can’t even get a break,” said Kyi Myint, 66, who leads a volunteer group in Yankin township, one of the worst hit in Myanmar’s main city, Yangon.
    Myanmar’s thousands of volunteers are a crucial element of the COVID-19 response in a country with one of the world’s weakest health systems.
    Myanmar appeared to have avoided the worst of the pandemic with only seven deaths a month ago – but a surge of infections has sent now the death toll to 371 from more than 16,500 cases.
    According to Reuters data, Myanmar’s death toll has doubled in 7.8 days – faster than any other country recording more than five deaths.
    More than 45,000 people, including COVID-19 patients, those yet to be tested, their close contacts and returning migrant workers, are being housed in buildings from schools and monasteries to government offices and tower blocks.
    Most of those are run by volunteers, who generally get no compensation.    They are given whatever protection equipment is available and sometimes food and a place to stay.
    “Without the volunteers, I don’t think we could have survived,” said Aye, a recovered patient who did not want to give her full name for fear of being identified.
    The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the outbreak and the role of the volunteers.
    “I usually get one or two hours sleep,” said volunteer Zar Ni, who marked his 29th birthday by working on Thursday.    “I am happy to help.    At first I feared I would be infected but I no longer do.”
    Myanmar has imposed a broad lockdown to try to stop the virus from spreading, and the volunteers keep away from their families once they start work.    Kyi Myint is staying with his 15-strong team in a Buddhist temple.
    “This is not the time for depression, we are helping as much as we possibly can,” he said.
(Reporting by Sam Aung Moon and Thu Thu Aung in Yangon; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and William Mallard)

10/4/2020 Australia’s COVID-19 Hotspot Cases Inch Up, But Officials Optimistic
FILE PHOTO: A man runs along a waterway after lockdown restrictions were implemented in response to an outbreak
of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Melbourne, Australia, July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders/File Photo
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – New daily coronavirus infections in Australia’s hotspot of Victoria climbed back to double digits on Sunday with 12 cases recorded but authorities said the state is on track to be able to ease its social distancing restrictions in coming weeks.
    The dozen new coronavirus cases follow eight infections reported on Saturday and single-digit numbers for most of the past week.
    Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has been under a strict lockdown for nearly three months.    Retail and restaurants operate only on take away or delivery orders only, while people can exercise or socialise outdoors for a maximum of two hours a day and must wear masks in public places.
    Most restrictions will be eased when the average number of new daily cases over a two-week window falls below five.    The 14-day rolling case average for Melbourne has been going steadily down and it is now at 11.9.
    “We are so, so close,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised briefing.
    “If we continue these numbers, continue this trend, we are ready to take that step.    All things being equal, that will be just a couple of weeks.”
    With temperatures reaching 28 Celsius (82.4 Fahrenheit) over the weekend, the highest in months, police said they were stepping up patrolling as hundreds of Melbourne residents flocked to beaches.
    Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, accounts for 90% of national COVID-19 deaths.    Australia, with 894 fatalities, has fared far better than many other developed countries.
    Australia has had just over 27,000 infections, according to health ministry data.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Robert Birsel)

10/4/2020 Azerbaijan’s Leader Says No End To Fighting Until Armenia Sets Pullout Timetable by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
FILE PHOTO: A shop is seen on fire following recent shelling during a military conflict over the
breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Stepanakert October 3, 2020. Gor Kroyan/REUTERS
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev demanded on Sunday that Armenia set a timetable for withdrawing from the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories, and said Azerbaijan would not cease military action until that happened.
    In a televised address to the nation, Aliyev said Azeri forces were advancing in a week-long offensive to retake lands that they lost to ethnic Armenians in the 1990s.
    “Azerbaijan has one condition, and that is the liberation of its territories,” he said.    “Nagorno-Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan.    We must return and we shall return.”
    “My condition is the following: let them withdraw their troops, and the confrontation will be stopped, but this should not be in words, but in deeds,” he added.
    He said the international community had failed for three decades to enforce U.N. resolutions or put pressure on Armenia to return Azeri territories.
    The content and tone of Aliyev’s message made clear that Azerbaijan would not entertain calls for an immediate ceasefire, as Russia, the United States and European Union have urged.
    Speaking immediately after Aliyev’s speech, Armenian Defence Ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan said: “I don’t think that there is any risk for Yerevan (the Armenian capital), but anyway we are in war.”
    The clashes are the worst since the 1990s, when some 30,000 people were killed and are spreading beyond the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.    They have raised international concern about stability in the South Caucasus, where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets.
    The conflict threatens to drag in other regional powers as Azerbaijan is supported by Turkey, while Armenia has a defence pact with Russia.
    Hundreds of people have been killed in the past week of fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces, including more than 40 civilians.
    Earlier on Sunday, Azerbaijan said Armenian forces had fired rockets at its second city of Ganja, killing one civilian and wounding 32, and also launched a missile attack on the Azeri industrial city of Mingachevir.    Azerbaijan threatened to retaliate by destroying military targets inside Armenia.
    Both Armenia’s and the breakaway region’s defence ministries said they denied the Azeri claim of the Armenian attack on Mingachevir in Azerbaijan.
    Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said: “The attacks of Armenia targeting the civilians in Ganja…are a new manifestation of Armenia’s unlawful attitude.    We condemn these attacks.”
    Armenia denied it had directed fire “of any kind” towards Azerbaijan.    The leader of Nagorno-Karabakh said his forces had targeted a military airbase in Ganja but later stopped firing in order to avoid civilian casualties.
FIGHTING SPREADS
    Until now, the main fighting has been between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan, but it now threatens to spill over into a direct war with Armenia itself.
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for an immediate ceasefire in a conversation with Armenia’s foreign minister and said Moscow was ready to help seek a solution to the conflict via the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).     Azerbaijan, however, says it has lost patience with the OSCE’s failure to resolve the conflict.
    Nagorno-Karabakh once again came under Azeri bombardment on Sunday and an official there said the civilian death toll over the past week had risen to 18, including casualties in the enclave’s capital of Stepanakert and nearby Shushi.
    Azerbaijan says it has lost 24 civilians, and Armenia two.
    Aliyev said on Twitter his forces had captured the town of Jabrail and several villages in what, if confirmed, would be a significant advance on the southern edge of Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan dismissed the claim as “yet another fabrication,”    Independent verification was not possible.
    Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan said his forces would target military units located in the large Azeri cities.
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Angus MacSwan/Frances Kerry/Jane Merriman)

10/5/2020 Armenians, Azeris Accuse Each Other Of Striking Civilian Areas
FILE PHOTO: Aftermath of recent shelling during a military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh
in Stepanakert October 4, 2020. David Ghahramanyan/NKR InfoCenter/PAN Photo/Handout via REUTERS
    YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Monday of attacking civilian areas on a ninth day of fighting, the deadliest in the South Caucasus region for more than 25 years.
    Hundreds of people have been killed in the latest outbreak of war over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave that belongs to Azerbaijan under international law but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
    Nagorno-Karabakh said Azeri forces launched rocket strikes on its capital Stepanakert, while Azerbaijan said Armenia fired missiles at several towns outside the breakaway region.
    “The enemy is firing rockets at Stepanakert and Shushi.    The Defence Army response will not be long in coming,” said Vahram Pogosyan, a spokesman for the Nagorno-Karabakh leader.
    “Tense fights are in progress,” said Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan.
    Azerbaijan said that Armenia had been launching missile attacks against densely populated areas and civilian infrastructure in Azerbaijan.    The Azeri defence ministry said its radar system recorded that launches were made from the territory of Armenia.
    “It is fake and complete misinformation that Armenia opened fire on Azeri strongholds,” said Artrsun Hovhannisyan, an Armenian defence ministry official.
    The clashes are the worst since the 1990s, when some 30,000 people were killed, and are spreading beyond the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.    They have raised international concern about stability in the South Caucasus, where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets.
    The conflict threatens to drag in other regional powers as Azerbaijan is supported by Turkey, while Armenia has a defence pact with Russia.
(Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

10/5/2020 New Zealand’s Ardern Lifts Coronavirus Restrictions In Auckland by Praveen Menon
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern participates in a televised debate with National leader
Judith Collins at TVNZ in Auckland, New Zealand, September 22, 2020. Fiona Goodall/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Coronavirus restrictions in New Zealand’s largest city will be lifted this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday as she expressed confidence a second wave of COVID-19 infections in Auckland has been almost eliminated.
    The city will move to alert level 1 from 11.59 p.m. on Wednesday, joining the rest of the country, after reporting no new cases in the Auckland cluster for 10 consecutive days.
    “There is now a 95% probability of the cluster being eliminated,” Ardern said at a news conference.    “COVID-19 will be with us for many months to come.    But we should still mark these milestones.”
    New Zealand, a nation of five million, appeared to have stamped out community transmission of COVID-19 earlier this year following a tough nationwide lockdown that was subsequently lifted.
    The renewed Auckland outbreak, detected in August, was the biggest the country had seen with 179 linked cases, prompted Ardern to reinforce restrictions in Auckland.
    The easing of measures means there will be no 100 people limit on gatherings in Auckland, and no physical distancing rules in bars and restaurants.
    The country recorded one new case on Monday, involving a New Zealander returning from overseas, taking its total number of confirmed cases to 1,499, including 25 deaths.
    Ardern’s success in containing coronavirus has played a major part in putting her firmly ahead in polls for a general election on Oct. 17.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Kim Coghill and Jane Wardell)

10/5/2020 Philippines’ Duterte Scores Record High Rating, Despite Virus Crisis
FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during his fourth State of the Nation Address
at the Philippine Congress in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval rating has hit a record high, an opinion poll showed on Monday, despite a stubborn coronavirus crisis that has ravaged the economy and caused millions of job losses.
    The Pulse Asia survey, conducted last month with in-person interviews with 1,200 adult Filipinos, found 91% of respondents approved of both his performance and his personality, up from 87% and 83% respectively in December.
    The Philippines, for years among the world’s fastest-growing economies, is forecast to see a 6.9% economic contraction this year, the World Bank has said, the biggest since the 1980s and worse than the government’s projected 5.5% decline.
    Ronnie Holmes, president of Pulse Asia, said during a television interview that the overwhelming thumbs-up for Duterte showed the public blamed the decline on the impact of COVID-19 rather than government mishandling.
    The survey was conducted in and around the capital Manila, where tight restrictions have been partly loosened to try to revive business activities.
    The Philippines leads Southeast Asia with the most number of cases https://tmsnrt.rs/3ngW4uH at 322,497 and is second to Indonesia in deaths.
    The firebrand leader has promised free vaccines, prioritising first the poor and then the middle class, police and military personnel.
    Duterte, 75, is allowed only a single term as president but the chance of his allies succeeding him will be bolstered significantly if his popularity remains intact ahead of the 2022 presidential election.
    While his opponents chide him for his authoritarian style and low tolerance of dissent, Duterte remains hugely popular because of his man-of-the-people style and a perception of strong leadership and success in fighting crime and corruption.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty)

10/5/2020 Australia’s Victoria State To Boost Testing On Path To Easing Restrictions by Lidia Kelly
FILE PHOTO: A man runs along a waterway after lockdown restrictions were implemented in response to an outbreak of
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Melbourne, Australia, July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders/File Photo
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s coronavirus hotspot of Victoria will look into ways to increase testing for the disease to control its spread in anticipation of easing of the state’s stringent lockdown restrictions, officials said on Monday.
    New daily coronavirus infections in Victoria, Australia’s second most-populous state, fell to nine cases on Monday, down from 12 in the previous days. No deaths were reported.
    Melbourne, which has remained in a strict lockdown for nearly three months, is expected to see the bulk of its restrictions eased when the average for new daily cases over two weeks falls below five.
    According to the state’s modelling, that could occur in late October.    On Monday, the 14-day day rolling case average was 11.6, down from 11.9 the previous day.
    “We want everybody who has symptoms, regardless of their circumstances, to be able to get tested, we get their results and that’s how we can protect them and indeed, the entire community,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said in a televised briefing.    “There is some work going on in the next few days to see if we can increase the number of people who are eligible and increase the number of people who can get those tests.”
    Victoria accounts for 90% of the country’s 894 COVID-19 deaths.    Since the start of the year, the state has conducted some 2.7 million tests.    It had a population of about 6 million at the last census, according to government data.
    Australia has one of the world’s highest ratios of tests per capita and, despite the outbreak in Victoria, one of the lowest numbers of coronavirus cases.
    The country has had just over 27,000 infections, according to health ministry data – less than the average daily number of cases for the United States in the past several months.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

10/5/2020 Afghan President Ghani Travels To Qatar Amid Peace Talks
FILE PHOTO: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrives to place a wreath of flowers next to the minaret of liberty
during Afghan Independence Day celebrations in Kabul, Afghanistan August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
    KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani is travelling to Qatar for a bilateral meeting with Qatari leaders but will not hold a meeting with Taliban officials even as peace talks are underway in the country’s capital city Doha, officials said on Monday.
    Negotiations between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban that started last month are aimed at the warring sides agreeing to a reduction of violence and a possible new power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan.
    Violence, however, has not abated even as Afghan negotiators have been engaged in direct talks for the first time ever.
    Scores of Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters have been killed in intensive clashes and suicide attacks have left dozens of civilians dead in recent weeks across the war-torn country.
    Ghani and his team will be stopping first in Kuwait to attend the funeral ceremony of the late Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah before travelling to Qatar on Monday, a close aide to Ghani told Reuters.
    “Several meetings are planned to discuss efforts for deepening Afghanistan-Qatar ties and mutual cooperation in various areas,” said the official adding that Ghani will also meet the Afghan representatives who are holding talks with Taliban.
    “But it is clear that Ghani will not meet the Taliban officials as there has been no reduction of violence and they continue to kill innocent civilians,” said a senior western diplomat overseeing the ongoing peace process.
    The intra-Afghan talks are part of a February deal between the militants and the United States that has cleared the way for U.S. forces to withdraw from their longest war.
    But so far there has been no progress as the warring Afghans have become bogged down on processes and procedures, diplomatic sources said.
(This story has been refiled to fix typo in headline.)
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Hamid Shalizi in Kabul, Writing by Rupam Jain, Editing by Michael Perry)

10/5/2020 Japan PM Suga Under Fire After Rejecting Scholars For Advisory Body by Linda Sieg
FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference following his confirmation as
Prime Minister of Japan in Tokyo, Japan September 16, 2020. Carl Court/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is under fire for rejecting six scholars for membership in a science advisory body set up after World War Two, a move critics say violates the constitution’s principle of academic freedom.
    Suga, who took office last month after Shinzo Abe resigned, has enjoyed high support among voters who approve of his promises to deregulate, reduce mobile phone rates and digitalise services as he tries to revive the economy and contain COVID-19.
    But Suga’s rejection of the six scholars – some of whom are known for criticising past Abe policies – could stoke a furore that threatens his honeymoon with voters.
    At issue is the influential 210-member Science Council of Japan (SCJ), set up after World War Two to provide independent scientific policy input.    The body had included the six rejected scholars among 105 recommended for membership.
    Half of the council’s members are chosen every three years.
    Among the policies the rejected scholars had criticised are Abe’s reinterpretation of the pacifist constitution to allow troops to fight overseas, a historic shift for Japan’s defence policies, and a 2013 state secrets act that sparked concerns about media freedom.
    Suga told reporters on Friday that his decision was “the result of an appropriate response based on the law.”
    Since 1983, the prime minister has appointed members based upon SCJ recommendations, and there is no precedent for rejecting those recommendations, political analysts said.
    “The constitution of Japan has a specific article just for academic freedom, which is … a direct result of wartime control of academia and science by the militarists,” said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano.
    The council, which tangled with Abe’s government in 2017 after taking a sceptical stance on academic research with potential military uses, has demanded Suga explain his decision and appoint the six scholars.
    “I don’t know at all why I was not appointed,” one of the scholars, Waseda Law School professor Masanori Okada, told Reuters.    “What I wrote (in the past) was that the government should act in accordance with the law. … That is only natural.”
    Some conservatives have blasted the SCJ for what they say is a China-friendly stance.    Okada denied the group has any special relationship with Beijing.
    University of Tokyo political science professor Shigeki Uno declined to comment directly on his rejection but stressed the importance of freedom of speech.
    “The greatest strength of a democratic society is its ability to be open to criticism and constantly modify itself,” he said in a statement to the media.
    Opposition parties have attacked the decision and demanded a public explanation from Suga.
(Reporting by Linda Sieg. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

10/5/2020 Pompeo Arrives In Japan For Trip Shortened By Trump’s COVID-19
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo adjusts his face mask during a walking tour
of the Old Town in Dubrovnik, Croatia, October 2, 2020. Darko Bandic/Pool via REUTERS
    TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Japan on Tuesday shortly after midnight for a visit that has been cut short by President Donald Trump’s hospitalisation with COVID-19.
    The trip has been scaled back to one full day in Japan after Trump took ill and the State Department said Pompeo would not go to Mongolia and South Korea as originally planned.
    Pompeo is expected to meet with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday for the first time since Suga took office and attend a wider meeting with the foreign ministers of India and Australia.
    That meeting of the Quad grouping – the United States, Japan, Australia and Japan – comes at a time of intense tension between Washington and China.
    Pompeo told reporters before departing for Japan that he hoped for “significant achievements” from the meetings with Quad partners, but he did not elaborate.
    China has denounced the Quad as an attempt to contain its development.    Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the foreign ministers are likely to emphasise their support for a free and open Indo-Pacific region at the meeting.
    They will discuss the new international order in a post-COVID world and the need for coordinating responses to the pandemic, he said.
    The abbreviated visit is Pompeo’s first to East Asia in more than a year.    The State Department said he was expecting to travel to Asia again in October and will work to reschedule the visits in his original itinerary.
    Trump announced his illness in the early hours of Friday and was flown from the White House to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington.
    Before departing, Pompeo said he had spoken to Trump earlier on Sunday.    “His spirits are great, he’s in a great mood,” Pompeo told reporters.
(Reporting by pool reports and Humeyra Pamuk Additional reporting Sanjeev Miglani; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Peter Graff)

10/5/2020 Nearly All Of Iran On Coronavirus Red Alert As Cases, Deaths Hit Records
FILE PHOTO: A student wearing a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has his temperature taken by a
school staff member at Al-Mahdi school in Tehran, Iran September 5, 2020. Picture taken September 5, 2020. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Health Ministry said on Monday nearly the whole country was on a coronavirus red alert as cases and deaths rose to record levels, with a member of the state task force’s warning field hospitals might be needed if people flout the rules.
    Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state television that 26 of Iran’s 31 provinces were “red” zones, the highest alert level, while four were at the next “orange” level.
    Authorities registered a record high 3,902 new cases in the past 24 hours, with the total number of identified cases in the worst-hit country in the Middle East rising to 475,674, Lari said.
    She said 235 patients had died in the past 24 hours, equalling a daily death toll high set on July 28, bringing the total death toll to 27,192.
    Officials have complained that many have defied regulations to wear face masks and some families used lockdowns to go on trips, helping spread the virus with hospitals nearly full.
    “If people keep going on weekend trips…, our patients might have to go to field hospitals,” Masoud Mardani, a member of the state coronavirus task force, told Khabaronline website.
    On Saturday, schools, libraries, mosques and other public institutions in the capital Tehran closed for a week as part of measures to stem the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.
    Similar closures have been also imposed in Zanjan province, northwest of Tehan, and cities in several other provinces, shutting museums, theatres, gyms, cafes and hair salons, state media said.
    Because of coronavirus concerns, Iran has banned flights to Iraq to block trips by Iranians to the neighbouring country for the annual pilgrimage of Arbaeen, which draws large crowds.    Land borders to Iraq have also been closed.
    After stopping flights to Turkey, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said on Monday one flight per day would be allowed in each direction.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Jon Boyle and Alison Williams)

10/6/2020 Exclusive: Taliban, Afghan Negotiators Set Ground Rules To Safeguard Peace Talks by Rupam Jain
FILE PHOTO: Delegates attend talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari
    (Reuters) – Taliban and Afghan peace negotiators have agreed on a code of conduct to safeguard against the risk of any breakdown in talks that began last month in Qatar to bring an end to decades of war, three official sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
    The breakthrough was achieved with the help of U.S. officials, as the two sides drew up 19 ground rules that their negotiators should observe during talks, the sources said.
    While the talks have been taking place in Qatar’s capital Doha, scores of Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters have been killed in clashes and suicide attacks in which dozens of civilians have also died in recent weeks.
    “Firming up code of conduct was extremely crucial as it proves that both sides are willing to continue talks even as we see that violence has not reduced on the ground,” said one senior Western diplomat on conditions of anonymity.
    The breakthrough came as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held bilateral discussions in Qatar’s capital of Doha with Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Envoy, and Gen. Austin Miller, the top commander for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
    The intra-Afghan talks are part of a landmark deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February.
    Under the deal, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counter terrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.
    Diplomats had told Reuters that the talks had got off to a difficult start, with disagreements over how the Hanafi Islamic code could be used to guide negotiations and on whether the deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February should be the basis for the talks, as demanded by the Taliban.
    The three sources said the delegations were putting those differences to one side to move forward and agree on an agenda, but would work on resolving these issues during negotiations.
    “The ground rules will serve as a foundation as both sides are making an effort to prevent a collapse,” said a second senior official in Doha overseeing the talks.
    A ceasefire is a top priority for the Afghan officials and the western diplomats who are facilitating these talks.
    However, analysts believe the Taliban would not agree to a comprehensive ceasefire since clashes with Afghan forces and violence gives them leverage at the negotiation table.
(Reporting by Rupam Jain in Mumbai, Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul, Editing by Charlotte Greenfield and Simon Cameron-Moore)

10/6/2020 China In Talks With WHO Over Assessing Its COVID-19 Vaccines For Global Use
FILE PHOTO: A worker performs a quality check in the packaging facility of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – China is in talks to have its locally-produced COVID-19 vaccines assessed by the World Health Organization, as a step toward making them available for international use, a WHO official said on Tuesday.
    Hundreds of thousands of essential workers and other groups considered at high risk in China have been given locally-developed vaccines even as clinical trials had not been fully completed, raising safety concerns among experts.
    Socorro Escalate, WHO’s coordinator for essential medicines and health technologies in the Western Pacific region, told a news conference conducted online that China had held preliminary discussions with WHO to have its vaccines included in a list for emergency use.
    The WHO’s emergency use listing procedure allows unlicensed vaccines and treatments to be assessed to expedite their availability in public health emergencies.    This helps WHO member states and UN procurement agencies to determine the acceptability of the vaccines.
    “Potentially through this emergency use listing the quality and safety of these vaccines and efficacy could be assessed. ..and then this could be made available for our licensees,” Escalante said.
    China has at least four experimental vaccines in the final stage of clinical trials – two are developed by state-backed China National Biotec Group (CNBG), and the remaining two are from Sinovac Biotech and CanSino Biologics <6185.HK> <688185.SS> respectively.
    They are tested in such countries as Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
    Last month, the UAE authorized the emergency use of a CNBG vaccine, the first international emergency clearance for one of China’s vaccines, just six weeks after human trials began in the Gulf Arab state.
    Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said last month it would prioritise China and Russia in his country’s global shopping for a vaccine.
(Reporting by John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

10/6/2020 Thais Remember 1976 Student Massacre As Protests Grow by Jiraporn Kuhakan
A woman lays flowers at a memorial during the 44th anniversary of a massacre of pro-democracy
students by state forces at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand. October 6, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thais paid their respects with flowers and prayers on Tuesday to the victims of a 1976 massacre of pro-democracy students by state forces, an event given new resonance by a recent surge in student-led protests.
    As people laid wreaths at the Thammasat University monument, 64-year-old survivor Wichian Visutanakon recalled the bloodshed.
    “The worst thing is those people who did those crimes are still proud and don’t regret their actions,” he said.
    On Oct. 6, 1976, security forces attacked some 2,000 student protesters on the campus, accusing them of being communist sympathisers and seeking to bring down the monarchy.    Dozens were killed – shot, hanged or beaten to death.
    The events have never been investigated officially.
    This year’s memorial ceremony drew more younger sympathisers than in recent years after nearly three months of street protests against the government, in which some protesters had called for reforms to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
    A 23-year-old student, Thantara Sriserm, said she was worried the protests might be violent like 1976, but that “it might be less likely as these days we have smartphones that we can use to film and share things quickly
    The protests are the biggest challenge in years to a ruling establishment long dominated by the army and the palace.    The next big protest is set for Oct. 14.
    Protesters seek the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader whose critics accuse him of keeping power by manipulating 2019 elections. He says the vote was fair.
    Last month, tens of thousands of protesters gathered just outside Thammasat University also cheered calls for palace reform, breaching a longstanding taboo on criticising the monarchy. Protests have been peaceful so far.
    Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the Oct. 6 memorial ceremonies happen every year and the government has no objection to this year’s event.
    The #Oct6 hashtag in Thai was among the top trending on Twitter in Thailand, used more than 410,000 times.
    “I hope that instigating hatred in the name of love for the nation, religion and monarchy, as seen in the Oct. 6 incident, will not happen again,” said opposition MP Rangsiman Rome, a former student activist.
    Thailand became a constitutional monarchy when absolute monarchy ended in 1932.    Thailand’s army has seized power 13 times since then and has on several occasions carried out bloody crackdowns on protesters.br> (Additional reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Himani Sarkar)

10/6/2020 Thousands Of Indonesians Protest Against Passage Of Jobs Bill by Tabita Diela and Agustinus Beo Da Costa
A man holds a sign reading "Labor is not a slave, cancel the omnibus bill of job creation" as members of Indonesian
trade unions protest against the government's proposed labor reforms in a controversial "jobs creation" bill in Tangerang,
on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia October 6, 2020, in this photo taken by Antara Foto/Fauzan/via REUTERS.
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Thousands of Indonesians took to the streets of several cities on Tuesday to protest the passage a day earlier of a jobs law they say is too pro-business, but which the government has promoted as vital to attract investment.
    President Joko Widodo’s “omnibus” Job Creation bill was passed three days ahead of schedule, revising over 70 existing laws to accelerate reform of Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
    The passage also came a day before the start of a three-day national strike which unions expected to involve two million workers in protest against the bill.
    Demonstrations began on Tuesday in industrial areas around Jakarta including Tangerang and Karawang and on Batam island, home to many electronics plants, local media reported.
    Kompas TV footage showed thousands of people protesting in Bandung, West Java, wearing face masks but without observing social distancing.
    So far, workers have been unable to protest in front of parliament in Jakarta as planned.    Police have sought to block protesters citing the need to contain the novel coronavirus.
    “The law will definitely affect the status of our employment,” said Anwar Sanusi, a member of FSPMI trade union in Tangerang, who took part in a rally with 400 others.
    People fear losing pensions and insurance if they are made contract workers for life due to the law, Sanusi told Reuters.
    The law removes the three-year maximum duration of contracts and reduces severance benefits – provisions the government said are intended to promote formal hiring. Other reforms include longer working hours and changes to mandatory paid leave.
LASH OUT ON TWITTER
    Indonesian markets cheered the passage of the bill, with the main stock index up as much as 1.31% and the rupiah reaching as high as 1.28%, its strongest in a month.
    Deputy Finance Minister Suahasil Nazara, speaking at a banking conference on Tuesday, said the law was meant to support the business community “to move forward and create many jobs.”
    Citibank in a research note said the law simplifies business licensing and addresses restrictive trade and labour policies. However, it said immediate foreign investment was unlikely in the currently depressed global economic climate.
    Trimegah Securities economist Fakhrul Fulvian said banks and export-oriented industries should benefit from the law, while consumer and retail sectors may be pressured as workers may increase savings to compensate for changes in labour rules.
    However, many Indonesians lashed against the law out on Twitter, with one trending hashtag incorporating an expletive against parliament and another calling lawmakers traitors.
    Indonesian constitutional law expert Zainal Arifin Mochtar at Gadjah Mada University urged the president not to sign the bill into law – a final step usually considered a formality.
    “Many in the public reject it,” he said at a virtual news briefing.    “I don’t think the president wants to change his stance, given he was the person most desperate for the bill to pass.    Our hope is with this pressure, he will consider not signing it.”
(This story has been refiled to add dropped word “to” before “the streets” in paragraph 1).
(Reporting by Tabita Diela and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Additional reporting by Maikel Jefriando, Fransiska Nangoy, Gayatri Suroyo and Kate Lamb; Editing by Ed Davies and Christopher Cushing)

10/6/2020 Taiwan Says Military Under Pressure From China As Missions Mount by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard
FILE PHOTO: A Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) F-16V fighter jet lands on a highway used as an emergency runway during the Han Kuang military exercise
simulating the China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) invading the island, in Changhua, Taiwan May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s military has launched aircraft to intercept Chinese planes more than twice as much as all of last year, the island’s defence ministry said, describing Taiwan as facing severe security challenges from its huge neighbour.
    China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up its military activities near the island, responding to what Beijing calls “collusion” between Taipei and Washington.
    In the past few weeks, Chinese fighter jets have crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an official buffer between the island and the mainland, and have flown into Taiwan’s southwestern air defence identification zone.
    In a report to parliament, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said so far this year the air force had scrambled 4,132 times, up 129% compared to all of last year, according to Reuters calculations.
    China “is trying to use unilateral military actions to change the security status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and at the same time is testing our response, increasing pressure on our air defences and shrinking our space for activity,” it said.
    The rapid development of China’s military has been accompanied by “targeted” military actions against Taiwan, the ministry added.
    China has been particularly angered by growing U.S. support for Taiwan, including senior U.S. officials visiting the island, adding to broader Sino-U.S. tensions.
    While Taiwan is unable to compete numerically with China’s armed forces, President Tsai Ing-wen has been overseeing a military modernisation programme, aiming to make the island’s armed forces more nimble and Taiwan more difficult to attack.
    Addressing a Taiwan-U.S. defence conference late Monday, Vice Defence Minister Chang Guan-chung said China has been ramping up what he called “realistic training against Taiwan
    “We are developing systems that are small, numerous, smart, stealthy, fast, mobile, low-cost, survivable, effective, easy to develop, maintain and preserve, and difficult to detect and counter,” he said.
    Chang called for enhanced cooperation with the United States that goes beyond weapons sales, saying that would further invigorate Taiwan’s defence reform and military modernisation.
    “We will also emphasise joint effort in training, operational concepts, capability assessment, intelligence sharing, and armament cooperation.    These are equally important as the acquisition of hardware,” he said.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

10/6/2020 North Korea’s Kim Lays Out 80-Day Campaign To Attain Goals This Year by Sangmi Cha
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 19th Meeting of the Political Bureau of the 7th Central Committee of the
Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), in this image released by North Korea's Central News Agency on October 5, 2020. KCNA/via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called on his country to embark on an 80-day campaign to attain its goals in every sector before a congress in January to decide a new five-year plan, state news agency KCNA said on Tuesday.
    Kim made the announcement in a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on Monday.    The meeting comes during a difficult year for North Korea as the coronavirus pandemic puts more pressure on a economy hurt by recent storms and flooding.
    “We have performed historical feats with our costly efforts, boldly overcoming unprecedentedly grave trials and difficulties this year, but we should not rest on our laurels,” KCNA said.
    “We still face the challenges that cannot be overlooked and there are many goals we have to attain within this year.”
    In August, Kim had announced that the ruling party will hold a congress in January to decide a new five-year plan, with a party meeting noting serious delays in improving the national economy.
    Last year, Kim vowed to make a “frontal breakthrough” in the country’s campaign to build a self-reliant economy in the face of tightening sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear and missile programmes.
    Security officials were watching for signs that North Korea may use an upcoming holiday to unveil new weapons or test fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Oct. 10, the 75th anniversary of the ruling workers party.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; editing by Richard Pullin)

10/7/2020 Iran Fears Regional War As Fighting Rages Around Nagorno-Karabakh by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
FILE PHOTO: An ethnic Armenian soldier fires an artillery piece during a military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh,
in this handout picture released October 5, 2020. Press office of Armenian Defense Ministry/PAN Photo/Handout via REUTERS
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Iran’s president warned on Wednesday that fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces in the South Caucasus could trigger a regional war as the death toll rose on the 11th day of hostilities.
    More than 300 have now died in the renewed fighting in and around the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which under international law belongs to Azerbaijan but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
    Azerbaijan says Azeri cities outside the conflict zone have also been attacked in the deadliest fighting in more than 25 years, taking the fighting closer to territory from which pipelines carry Azeri gas and oil to Europe.
    Iran, which borders both Armenia and Azerbaijan, has been talking to both the former Soviet republics as concern mounts that Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia, could be sucked into the conflict.
    “We must be attentive that the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan does not become a regional war,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks.
    “Peace is the basis of our work and we hope to restore stability to the region in a peaceful way.”
    He said Iran would not allow “states to send terrorists to our borders under various pretexts.”
    In a new call for a ceasefire, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a television interview that the events were a tragedy and Moscow was deeply concerned.
    Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s SVR Foreign Intelligence Service, said on Tuesday the conflict was attracting people he described as mercenaries and terrorists from the Middle East.
    Naryshkin said Nagorno-Karabakh could become a launchpad for Islamist militants to enter Russia and other states in the region.
    Turkey has denied involvement in the conflict and has dismissed accusations first levelled by French President Emmanuel Macron, and echoed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, that Turkey has sent Syrian jihadists to fight in the conflict.
TERRORIST ATTACK
    But reiterating the allegations in comments to Sky News, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Wednesday that the actions of Turkey and Azerbaijan during the conflict amounted to a “terroristic attack.”
    “To me there is no doubt that this is a policy of continuing the Armenian genocide and a policy of reinstating the Turkish empire,” Pashinyan said.
    Some 1.5 million Armenians were killed under Ottoman rule between 1915 and 1923.
    Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.
    Nagorno-Karabakh said 40 more of its servicemen had been killed in the latest clashes, taking its overall military death toll to 280 since Sept. 27.    It says 19 civilians have also been killed and many wounded in fighting that has involved warplanes, drones, artillery and tanks, and has caused widespread damage.
    The Azeri prosecutor’s office has said 28 Azeri civilians have been killed in the renewed fighting.    Azerbaijan has not disclosed information about its military casualties.
    Mediation efforts led by Russia, France and the United States have failed to prevent intermittent flare-ups of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke away from Baku’s control in a war in 1991-94 that killed about 30,000 people.
    Putin said he was in constant contact with Pashinyan, and Russia’s TASS news agency said Azeri President Ilham Aliyev had also spoken by phone with Putin.
    In more diplomatic fallout from the conflict, Athens said it had recalled its ambassador to Azerbaijan after what it said were “unfounded and offensive” allegations by the Azeri government that Greece tolerated militants on its soil.
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Maria Kiselyova in Moscow, Guy Faulconbridge in London and Michele Kambas in Athens, Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

10/7/2020 China Urges U.S. To Drop ‘Cold War’ Mentality
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waits to meet with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (not pictured)
at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, Japan October 6, 2020. Eugene Hoshiko/Pool via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – China said on Wednesday that the United States should stop its unprovoked attacks and accusations against China, accusing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of maliciously creating political confrontation and smearing Beijing.
    Pompeo on Tuesday visited Japan and called for deeper cooperation with Australia, India and Japan to counter China’s growing regional influence.
    “Pompeo has repeatedly fabricated lies about China and maliciously created political confrontation,” the Chinese embassy in Japan said in a statement.
    “We once again urge the U.S. to abandon its Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice, stop unprovoked accusations and attacks against China and treat relations with China in a constructive manner,” the embassy said.
    Pompeo’s East Asia visit, his first in more than a year, coincides with worsening tensions with China.
    The United States and China, the world’s top two economies, are at loggerheads over a wide range of issues from Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus to its imposition of a new security law in Hong Kong and ambitions in the South China Sea.
    Pompeo’s call for the Quad nations of the United States, Japan, India and Australia to form a united front against China’s growing influence is a sensitive subject for its regional allies, which are reliant on China for trade.
(Reporting by Colin Qian and Se Young Lee; Editing by Michael Perry)
[WELL CHINA WAKE UP THE U.S. HAS ALREADY DROPPED A COLD WAR ON YOU AS WELL AS MANY OTHER COUNTRIES THAT KNOW WHAT YOU DID.].

10/7/2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Says Death Toll Among Its Military Rises To 280 Since Start Of Conflict: Ifax
Aftermath of recent shelling during a military conflict over the breakaway region of
Nagorno-Karabakh, in Stepanakert October 6, 2020. Vahram Baghdasaryan/Photolure via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – The defence ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh region said on Wednesday it had recorded another 40 casualties among its military, pushing the military death toll to 280 since fighting with Azeri forces erupted on Sept. 27, the Interfax news agency reported.
    The region has seen the deadliest fighting in more than 25 years between ethnic Armenian and Azeri forces.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/7/2020 Taiwan Says Has Spent Almost $900 Million Scrambling Against China This Year
Taiwan's Minister of National Defense Yen Teh-fa speaks to the media in Taipei, Taiwan, October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan has spent almost $900 million this year on scrambling its air force against Chinese incursions, the island’s defence minister said on Wednesday, describing the pressure they are facing as “great.”
    China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up its military activity near the island, responding to what China calls “collusion” between Taiwan and the United States.
    China has been angered at increased U.S. support for Taiwan, including visits by senior U.S. government officials and ramped up arms sales.
    In the past few weeks, Chinese fighter jets have crossed the mid line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial buffer zone, and flown multiple missions into Taiwan’s southwestern air defence identification zone.
    Speaking at parliament, Taiwan Defence Minister Yen De-fa said to the air force had scrambled 2,972 times against Chinese aircraft this year at a cost of T$25.5 billion ($886.49 million).
    “Recently the pressure has been great.    To say otherwise would be deceiving people,” Yen said, without giving a comparison figure for last year.
    He clarified that a figure of 4,132 air force missions this year, as provided in a ministry parliamentary briefing paper, included training and regular patrol missions.
    Yen said that the armed forces would this month carry out their own drills off Taiwan’s southwest coast, though they would not be live fire.
    Taiwan’s armed forces are well-trained and well-equipped but are dwarfed by those of China’s, and Taiwan’s Defence Ministry has previously acknowledged the strain the repeated Chinese drills were placing on them.
    Taiwan is in the process of revamping its fighter fleet.
    The United States last year approved an $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, a deal that would bring the island’s total number of the aircraft to more than 200, the largest F-16 fleet in Asia.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

10/7/2020 France, U.S. And Russia To Meet On Nagorno-Karabakh Amid Fears Of Regional War by Nailia Bagirova, Nvard Hovhannisyan and John Irish
FILE PHOTO: An ethnic Armenian soldier fires an artillery piece during a military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh,
in this handout picture released October 5, 2020. Press office of Armenian Defense Ministry/PAN Photo/Handout via REUTERS
    BAKU/YEREVAN/PARIS (Reuters) – France, the United States and Russia will step up efforts to end fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces in the South Caucasus by holding talks in Geneva on Thursday, as fears of a regional war grow.
    French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Russian, French and U.S. representatives would also meet in Moscow on Monday to look at ways to persuade the warring sides to negotiate a ceasefire.
    “We want everyone to understand that it’s in their interest to immediately stop hostilities without conditions and that we start a negotiation,” he told the French parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
    Le Drian did not make clear whether any Armenian and Azeri representatives would attend but Azerbaijan said its foreign minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, would visit Geneva on Thursday.
    The Armenian foreign ministry said Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan would visit Moscow on Monday but gave no details.    It ruled out a meeting with Bayramov.
    The warring sides have so far ignored ceasefire calls by Paris, Washington and Moscow, which have mediated for nearly three decades in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave which under international law belongs to Azerbaijan but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
    The Azeri and Armenian leaders have also been at odds over their conditions for halting fighting that began on Sept. 27.
    More than 360 people have been killed, including 320 military personnel and 19 civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh, and 28 Azeri civilians.    They are the deadliest clashes since a 1991-94 war over Nagorno-Karabakh that killed about 30,000.
    Azerbaijan says Azeri cities outside the conflict zone have also been attacked.    This has taken fighting closer to territory from which pipelines carry Azeri gas and oil to Europe, and prompted British oil company BP to look at tightening security at its facilities in Azerbaijan.
    “We must be attentive that the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan does not become a regional war,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks.
    Iran, which borders both Armenia and Azerbaijan, has been talking to both the former Soviet republics as concern mounts that Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia, could be sucked into the conflict.
CEASEFIRE CONDITIONS
    France, the United States and Russia are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group that mediates over Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Turkey has accused the group of neglecting the conflict and said it should not be involved in mediation.
    Le Drian hit back at Turkey, reiterating accusations – denied by Ankara – that it is involved militarily and saying this fuelled the “internationalisation” of the conflict.
    Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has said his country will hold talks with Armenia only after the acute phase of military conflict ends, and wants Turkey involved in mediation.
    He also wants Armenia to set a timetable for a withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories.
    Armenia’s ceasefire conditions are Turkey “discontinuing its engagement” and “the withdrawal of mercenaries and terrorists or their elimination,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s press service quoted him as telling Time magazine.
    In comments to Sky News, Pashinyan said Turkey and Azerbaijan were pursuing a policy of genocide and “reinstating the Turkish empire.”    Both have dismissed such accusations in the past.
    Some 1.5 million Armenians were killed under Ottoman rule between 1915 and 1923.    Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.
(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Dmitry Antonov and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow, Guy Faulconbridge in London and Michele Kambas in Athens, Writing by Margarita Antidze and Timothy Heritage; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Giles Elgood and Gareth Jones)

10/7/2020 NATO Chief Stoltenberg Urges Armenian-Azeri Ceasefire by OAN Newsroom
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speak
to the media after their talks in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
    NATO Secretary General Yens Stoltenberg has called for a peaceful, negotiated solution to the ongoing military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.    On Wednesday, Stoltenberg reiterated there is no military solution to the fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
    “All parties involved need to cease fighting immediately,” he said.    “We need a ceasefire.”
    The Armenian-majority region of Azerbaijan, which is currently held by the Armenian military, was attacked by the Azeri military forces several days ago.     The NATO chief has since urged diplomats to step up their efforts to end the bloodshed.
    “We need a political process to find a political, peaceful, negotiated solution,” added Stoltenberg.    “I strongly believe that, because the only way to find a peaceful solution is through negotiations.”
    He also warned of the ongoing military buildup in eastern Europe amid elevated tensions between NATO allies and the Putin regime.

10/8/2020 U.S. Expected To Impose New Sanctions On Iran’s Financial Sector: Source by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers
and representatives of the U.S., Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the
Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is preparing to impose fresh sanctions on Iran’s financial industry as soon as Thursday, a Republican congressional aide briefed on the matter said, as Washington ramps up pressure on Tehran weeks ahead of a key U.S. election.
    The move, which would effectively shut Iran out of the global financial sector, comes after the United States last month said it triggered a “snap back,” or resumption, of virtually all U.N. sanctions on Iran, an assertion rejected by key European allies and most U.N. Security Council members including Russia and China.
    The Washington Post first reported on the U.S. plan.
    Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal struck by his predecessor and began reimposing sanctions that had been eased under the accord.
    U.S. sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy.    President Hassan Rouhani in June said his country was experiencing the toughest year because of U.S. economic pressure and the coronavirus pandemic which has hit the Islamic Republic hard.
    Iran hawks inside and outside the Trump administration have been pushing for the targeting of Iran’s entire financial sector for some time.
    Iran’s oil exports, a key source of revenue for the OPEC member, have dropped to their lowest levels in decades earlier this year, but Thursday’s move, experts have said, could hit the Islamic Republic’s ability to secure humanitarian goods such as medicine.
    The U.S. sanctions Trump has reimposed target everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities, and while they exempt food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies, many foreign banks are already deterred from doing business with the Islamic Republic – including humanitarian deals.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Michael Perry)

10/8/2020 U.S. Warns China Against Taiwan Attack, Stresses U.S. ‘Ambiguity’ by David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: A Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) F-16V fighter jet lands on a highway used as an emergency runway during the Han Kuang
military exercise simulating the China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) invading the island, in Changhua, Taiwan May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. national security adviser warned China on Wednesday against any attempt to take Taiwan by force, saying amphibious landings were notoriously difficult and there was a lot of ambiguity about how the United States would respond.
    Robert O’Brien told an event at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas that China was engaged in a massive naval buildup probably not seen since Germany’s attempt to compete with Britain’s Royal Navy prior to World War One.
    “Part of that is to give them the ability to push us back out of the Western Pacific, and allow them to engage in an amphibious landing in Taiwan,” he said.
    “The problem with that is that amphibious landings are notoriously difficult,” O’Brien added, pointing to the 100-mile (160-km) distance between China and Taiwan and the paucity of landing beaches on the island.
    “It’s not an easy task, and there’s also a lot of ambiguity about what the United States would do in response to an attack by China on Taiwan,” he added, when asked what U.S. options would be if China moved to try to absorb Taiwan.
    O’Brien was referring to a long-standing U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the question of whether it would intervene to protect Taiwan, which China considers its province and has vowed to bring under its control, by force if necessary.
    The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it has not made clear whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack, something that would likely lead to a much broader conflict with Beijing.
    O’Brien’s comments come at a time when China has significantly stepped up military activity near Taiwan and when U.S.-China relations have plunged to the lowest point in decades in the run-up to President Donald Trump’s Nov. 3 re-election bid.
    O’Brien repeated U.S. calls for Taiwan to spend more on its own defense and to carry out military reforms to make clear to China the risks of attempting to invade.
    “You can’t just spend 1% of your GDP, which the Taiwanese have been doing – 1.2% – on defense, and hope to deter a China that’s been engaged in the most massive military build up in 70 years,” he said.
    Taiwan needed to “turn themselves into a porcupine” militarily, he said, adding: “Lions generally don’t like to eat porcupines.”
    On Tuesday, the senior U.S. defense official for East Asia called Taiwan’s plan to boost defense spending by $1.4 billion next year insufficient.
    He said it needed to invest in capabilities including more coastal defense cruise missiles, naval mines, fast-attack craft, mobile artillery and advanced surveillance assets.
    Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, in a response provided to Reuters, said they will “strive for an adequate budget” in accordance with their needs to build a solid national defense force.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Michael Perry)

10/8/2020 Explainer: What A North Korean Holiday May Reveal About Kim Jong Un’s Plans by Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO: People watch a television showing a file picture of a North Korean missile for a news report on
North Korea firing short-range ballistic missiles, in Seoul, South Korea, July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea is expected to use a major holiday this weekend to showcase its military power, highlight domestic political messages, and galvanize citizens at a time when the country faces increasing economic hardship and isolation.
    International observers are closely watching the celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea on Saturday, eager to see what messages Kim Jong Un will send to domestic and foreign audiences.
    The stakes are high for Kim, who has seen his promises of economic progress fall short in the face of international sanctions in place amid stalled denuclearisation talks, a strict lockdown to prevent a coronavirus outbreak, and damaging summer storms.
    Analysts say most of the events are expected to focus on domestic messaging through things such as national meetings, art and industry exhibitions, a light show, visits to key monuments, and ceremonies to mark the completion of construction projects.
    But there is also growing speculation that Kim may use a military parade to show off his largest ballistic missiles for the first time since he first met with U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018.
    The weekend’s events come just weeks before the presidential election in the United States, and analysts say the parade could offer Kim a chance to project a more militant stance without resorting to something as provocative as a new nuclear test or long-range missile launch.
NEW MISSILES
    Kim had promised this year to unveil a new “strategic weapon” in the face of continued U.S. pressure that he says stalled denuclearisation talks.
    North Korea is believed to be developing a submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles, and there is speculation that a test could be imminent, but in a recent report for the Atlantic Council, two former U.S. intelligence officers argued that Kim could unveil more potent weapons at the parade.
    “If he offers up an ‘October surprise’ this year, it probably won’t be the North Korean version of the fictional Soviet ballistic-missile submarine ‘Red October,’" they wrote.    “Instead, it may well come in the form of new missiles displayed on the streets of Pyongyang.”
    North Korea has used previous parades to unveil missiles – or mockups of missiles – that it had yet to test, and South Korean media reports have cited unnamed intelligence sources who said intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) larger than anything tested so far have been spotted at facilities near Pyongyang.
    That may suggest that North Korea could showcase a “canisterized system,” in which missiles are stored in containers, ready to launch, similar to the kind shown in a 2017 military parade, said Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network.
    “At the time, it suggested they were working toward a multiple stage solid-fuel ICBM,” she said.
    Solid-fuel weapons in some cases may be easier to store and faster to deploy than liquid-fueled systems, but it is unclear if the canisters displayed in 2017 carried missiles inside.
MORE MISSILES, MORE LAUNCHERS
    While Kim placed a moratorium on nuclear tests and ICBM launches, he also called for the rapid production of battle-ready missiles and atomic weapons, sparking speculation that he may use this parade to show off large numbers of missiles.
    Such a display would not only showcase the country’s success in following Kim’s directive, but would reveal whether North Korea has managed to build or buy more large “transporter-erector-launcher” (TELs) vehicles needed to carry ICBMs.
    “The number of these vehicles is the major constraint on the North’s missile numbers,” Hanham said.
    Hanham said she would be closely watching to see whether North Korea displays more short-range missiles, such as the KN-23, which was test launched multiple times since it was unveiled early last year.
    “I think these types of missiles are the most destabilising, because they are small, quick to launch and the kind of thing you might try to use for a ‘limited war’ that could spin into nuclear war,” she said.
DOMESTIC MESSAGING
    North Korean construction workers have been rushing to complete a massive new hospital in downtown Pyongyang, which was meant to be finished in time for the Oct. 10 holiday.
    Commercial satellite imagery shows that the exterior of the building is complete, according to a report on Tuesday by 38 North, a U.S.-based think tank that monitors North Korea.
    Although it is doubtful that the hospital’s interior is anywhere close to finished, the building is likely to “form one of the main propaganda pillars to this weekend’s events,” the report said.
    Workers also carried out major renovations of Kim Il Sung Square, where the parade and other events are expected to take place.
    “Major political events are great opportunities for the North Korean leadership to promote domestic unity and inspire the people’s pride in the country’s power,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, an independent analyst and former North Korea open source intelligence expert in the U.S. government.    "Since North Korea has been affected by prolonged COVID quarantine measures and lately the floods, the leadership will really want to make the best of the upcoming celebrations to do just that.”
(Reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

10/8/2020 U.S. Troops In Afghanistan Should Be ‘Home By Christmas’: Trump
FILE PHOTO: National Security adviser Robert O'Brien speaks during a press briefing
at the White House in Washington, US, September 4, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – All U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be “home by Christmas,” President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, just hours after his national security adviser said Washington would reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early next year.
    A landmark deal between the United States and the Taliban in February said foreign forces would leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.
    Trump and other officials have said the United States will go down to between 4,000 and 5,000 troops in Afghanistan around November.
    Beyond that, officials have said that a reduction will depend on conditions in Afghanistan.
    On Twitter, Trump said: “We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!
    It was unclear whether Trump was giving an order or verbalizing a long-held aspiration.
    Trump, who is seeking re-election next month, has made walking away from “ridiculous endless wars” the cornerstone of his foreign policy, even though thousands of troops remain in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
    Just hours before Trump’s tweet, national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the United States had less than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan currently and would go down to 2,500 by early nexMt year.
    “Ultimately, the Afghans themselves are going to have to work out an accord, a peace agreement.    … It’s going to be slow progress, it’s going to be hard progress, but we think it’s a necessary step – we think Americans need to come home,” O’Brien told an event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
    The National Security Council and White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    The White House’s plan for the drawdown will almost certainly be subject to review should Trump lose his bid for a second term in the Nov. 3 election.
    Trump’s comments could further weaken the Afghan government’s leverage during negotiations with the Taliban.
    While the talks have been taking place in Qatar’s capital, Doha, scores of Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters have been killed in clashes.    Dozens of civilians have also died in recent weeks.
    Testifying before a U.S. House of Representatives committee last month, U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said that once the number of U.S. troops reached 4,500, the administration “would do an evaluation of ties and actions that we have taken and make decisions on that.”
    About 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in the Afghan conflict and many thousands more wounded.
    Wednesday also marks 19 years since the United States invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban rulers who had harbored al Qaeda militants who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali, David Brunnstrom and Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney)

10/8/2020 Azeris And Ethnic Armenians Fight As Russia, U.S. And France Seek Ceasefire by Nvard Hovhannisyan, Nailia Bagirova and Stephanie Nebehay
Smoke rises as Azerbaijan's forces shell targets during the fighting over the breakaway region
of Nagorno-Karabakh near the city of Terter, Azerbaijan October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    YEREVAN/BAKU/GENEVA (Reuters) – Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians fought with artillery and heavy guns on Thursday as the United States, France and Russia stepped up efforts to secure a ceasefire and avert a wider war in the South Caucasus.
    Azerbaijan said the city of Ganja had come under fire, deep inside its territory.    Ethnic Armenians who control the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh inside Azerbaijan said Stepanakert, its main city, had been shelled by Azeri forces.
    In a sign of growing alarm in the region, the head of a six-country military alliance led by Russia and including Armenia warned that the group could intervene if Armenian sovereignty were threatened.
    The continued fighting and rising tension underlined the difficulties facing U.S., Russian and French officials meeting in Geneva to try to halt fighting in which at least 400 people have been killed since it broke out on Sept. 27.
    Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov was due to attend Thursday’s talks in Geneva, but no direct meetings have been scheduled between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
    Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan is expected to hold separate talks with U.S., French and Russian officials in Moscow on Monday.
    Washington, Paris and Moscow are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group that has led mediation over Nagorno-Karabakh since 1992.
    “The position of the United States has been clear and has not changed: Both sides must cease hostilities immediately and work with the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to return to substantive negotiations as soon as possible,” a U.S. spokesman said.
    Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin spoke by phone with his Azeri counterpart, Ali Asadov, on Thursday to underline the importance of restarting peace talks and establishing a ceasefire, Russian news agencies reported, citing the government.
    Russia’s foreign ministry said earlier on Thursday that it was in talks with Azerbaijan and Armenia to organise a possible meeting in Moscow.
    No news conference was planned in Geneva, and the sides did not say where in the Swiss city they were meeting, hoping to keep details secret and boost hopes of a breakthrough.
    Nagorno-Karabakh’s defence ministry denied a ceasefire had been agreed to go into force on Thursday.
INTERNATIONAL CONCERN
    Under international law, Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan, but it is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians and broke away in a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000.

10/8/2020 Clashes Erupt In Protests Against New Indonesian Jobs Law by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Willy Kurniawan
A riot police officer fires tear gas following a protest against the government's labor reforms
in a "jobs creation" bill in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Police and demonstrators clashed in the Indonesian capital on Thursday on the third day of protests and strikes against a polarising new jobs law passed in Southeast Asia’s largest economy earlier this week.
    Hundreds of demonstrators gathered near the presidential palace in central Jakarta, shouting and throwing stones.    Police fired tear gas and water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowd, Reuters witnesses said.
    The “omnibus” jobs creation bill, passed into law on Monday, has seen thousands of people across the world’s fourth-most populous nation take to the streets in protest against legislation they say undermines labour rights and weakens environmental protections.     “This is our struggle for our children and grandchildren, and our future generations… If it’s like this our well-being will decrease, and we will lack job certainty,” Maulana Syarif, 45, who has worked at Astra Honda motors for 25 years, told Reuters in Jakarta.
    Around 1,000 protesters have been detained in Jakarta and more than 100 others arrested in other cities, according to police spokespeople.    At least two students have been hospitalised with head injuries, and six police officers hurt.
    “I feel a responsibility to the Indonesian people,” said another demonstrator, IT student Arawinda Kartika, as she marched toward the palace.     “I feel sorry for labourers working day and night without sufficient wages or power.”
    Labour union leader Jumisi called for protests to continue until the law was repealed, extending unions’ initial plan for a three-day national strike ending Thursday.
    Television channels showed demonstrations in multiple cities across the country, including in remote areas such as North Maluku, where people carried coffins and held mock funerals to mark the “death” of parliament.
    Black smoke rose across the capital on Thursday afternoon as protesters burned public transport facilities and damaged police posts.    The operator of Jakarta’s MRT rail network said underground stations had been closed.
    Protesters blocked a toll road in West Java and set fire to a cafe in Yogyakarta province, media reported.
    Two provincial governors urged the president to issue an emergency decree to cancel the law, they said in their social media accounts.
    The government of President Joko Widodo has championed the legislation as key to boosting Indonesia’s ailing economy by cutting red tape and attracting more foreign direct investment.
    Bahlil Lahadalia, the head of Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board, appealed to young people to trust the government’s intent.
    “Please be assured this law is to create jobs for the unemployed Indonesian people,” he said.
(Additional Reporting by Tabita Diela and Maikel Jefriando; Writing by Kate Lamb and Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Alex Richardson)

10/9/2020 Azeris And Ethnic Armenians Fight Before Planned Talks With Russia by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
A view shows a house damaged by recent shelling during a military conflict over the breakaway region of
Nagorno-Karabakh, in Stepanakert October 8, 2020. David Ghahramanyan/NKR InfoCenter/PAN Photo/Handout via REUTERS
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces fought new clashes on Friday as Russia prepared to host talks with the warring sides’ foreign ministers on ending the deadliest battles in the South Caucasus for more than 25 years.
    Russia’s foreign ministry was quoted by RIA news agency as saying Armenia and Azerbaijan had accepted the offer of talks after the Kremlin invited their foreign ministers to the Russian capital on Friday.
    “Baku and Yerevan confirmed their participation in talks in Moscow.    Active preparation is under way,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
    It the two foreign ministers meet, it will be the first direct contact known to have taken place between the two former Soviet republics since fighting broke out in their decades-old conflict on Sept. 27.
    More than 400 people have been killed in the fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave which under international law belongs to Azerbaijan but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
    Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said there had been fierce clashes with ethnic Armenian forces during the night along the line of contact that divides the two sides in Nagorno-Karabakh.
    More details of the latest clashes were not immediately available.
    Fighting has continued despite the start of a concerted peace drive by the United States, France and Russia.
    Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov agreed to attend talks with the three powers on Thursday in Geneva but no details of the meeting have been released.
    Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan did not attend the Geneva talks but was expected to meet Russian, French and U.S. officials in Moscow on Monday.
    The latest fighting in the decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has raised fears that Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia, will be dragged into the conflict.
CEASEFIRE CALLS
    The warring sides have ignored repeated calls to cease military hostilities.
    Stepanakert, the city ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh consider the capital of an independent state, was under shelling since Friday morning, Nagorno-Karabakh’s defence ministry said.
    In a sign of alarm in the region, the head of a six-country military alliance led by Russia and including Armenia, warned on Thursday that the group could intervene if Armenian sovereignty were threatened.
    Washington, Paris and Moscow have led mediation over Nagorno-Karabakh for almost three decades as co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group.    A ceasefire has been violated repeatedly since the end of a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000 people.
    Azerbaijan said on Thursday that 31 Azeri civilians have been killed and 154 wounded since Sept. 27. It has not disclosed information about military casualties.
    Nagorno-Karabakh said on Friday 376 of its military personnel and 22 civilians had been killed since Sept. 27.
    Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s main demand for a ceasefire is for Armenia to set a timetable for a withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories.
    Armenia has ruled out a withdrawal from territory it considers its historic homelands.    It has also accused Turkey of military involvement in the conflict and sending in mercenaries, allegations denied by Ankara.
(Additional reporting by Alexander Marrow and Maria Kiselyova, Writing by Margarita Antidze and Timothy Heritage, Editing by Peter Graff)

10/9/2020 China Tourism Rebounds Over Golden Week But Still Below Last Year by Andrew Galbraith and Sophie Yu
People arrive at Beijing Railway Station after an eight-day National Day holiday following the outbreak
of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China, October 9, 2020 REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Domestic tourism in China saw a robust rebound over the just-ended Golden Week holiday, encouraged by the country’s success in stamping out the novel coronavirus, although levels were still well short of last year.
    Tourism sites were visited by 637 million domestic tourists over the eight-day National Day holiday that started Oct. 1, 79% of last year’s total, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a statement on Thursday.
    Domestic tourism revenues stood at 466.56 billion yuan ($68.7 billion), it added, down from nearly 650 billion yuan a year earlier.
    That, however, marked an improvement from China’s last long holiday period over May 1-5 for Labour Day, when 115 million domestic tourists travelled and tourism revenues were only 47.56 billion yuan.
    Since then, COVID-19 cases have ebbed, with no new community transmissions in mainland China since early August.
    “The quick rebound may have alleviated concerns about China’s growth momentum, but it is too early to be complacent,” Betty Wang, senior China economist at ANZ, wrote in a note.
    The October Golden Week figures undershot last year’s levels, even though the holiday period was extended this year by a day as it overlapped with China’s mid-autumn festival.
    The figures also defied some expectations that domestic tourism would be much stronger with cross-border travel restrictions and a dearth of international flights deterring millions of Chinese nationals from overseas trips.
    “Tourism revenue during the holiday period only rebounded to 69.9% of last year,” Wang said, noting core inflation trended lower year-on-year to 0.5% growth in July and August, the lowest level since 2010.
    The soft CPI growth suggests domestic demand remained fragile.
    “We failed to see a so-called retaliatory rebound (in consumption),” said Zhang Qidi, visiting researcher at the Center of International Finance Studies at the Central University of Finance Studies in Beijing.
    Zhang does not expect consumer spending to perform strongly in the near term, noting that middle and low-income households have been hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic.
    Household income fell 1.3% on the year as of end-June versus a 5.8% increase at end-December, according to official data.
    “It will still take a long time for income growth to return to normal,” Zhang said.
    Separate data from the commerce ministry showed average daily sales at key retail and catering enterprises rose 4.9% over the October holiday period from a year earlier, with sales totalling 1.6 trillion yuan ($238 billion).
    It also noted strong car sales growth in some areas around the country, with sales in Beijing 23.5% higher.
    Car trips featured prominently this year, according to state media, contributing to highway congestion and also indicating continued caution over coronavirus transmissions and outbreaks.
($1 = 6.7898 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith, Sophie Yu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

10/9/2020 Missiles And Masks: North Koreans Prepare Military Parade Despite Coronavirus Concern by Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO: A woman rides a bicycle as Juche Tower is seen in the background along the
Taedong river in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Koreans wearing medical masks have gathered in the capital of Pyongyang, state media reported this week, ahead of what is expected to be a big military parade on Saturday, possibly featuring the country’s latest ballistic missiles.
    The holiday marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, and events include art and industry exhibitions, a light show, visits to monuments and ceremonies to mark the completion of construction projects.     Officials in South Korea and the United States say that North Korea could use the parade to show off a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
    “There is a possibility that North Korea will unveil new strategic weapons, such as new intercontinental ballistic missiles or submarine-launched ballistic missiles, to draw attention at a time when its economic achievements have been sluggish,” the South’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, said on Thursday.
    Unification Minister Lee In-young told lawmakers that displaying a new missile could be a “low-intensity demonstration of force” ahead of the U.S. presidential election that would be less provocative than a launch or nuclear test.
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has not displayed ICBMs at a parade since he first met U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018, but their talks have stalled and Pyongyang has signalled increasing impatience with Washington.
    “The display of new ICBMs would signal that North Korea was moving on from this strategy and may indicate that North Korea will resume long-range missile testing,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
    State media outlets showed photos of large crowds of delegates and other visitors masks as they arrived for holiday events.
    North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but the government has imposed strict border controls and quarantine measures and analysts say an outbreak could be devastating for the economically and politically isolated country.
    “Such an event is extremely risky in that if only a few people were COVID-19 positive in the crowd they could create a deadly super-spreader-like event,” said Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest in Washington.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel)

10/9/2020 Explainer: Indonesia’s Jobs Law Endangers Environment, Say Activists, Investors by Fathin Ungku, Gayatri Suroyo and Bernadette Christina
A demonstrator holds an Indonesian flag during a protest against the government's labour reforms in a
controversial jobs creation law in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    JAKARTA/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Environmentalists in Indonesia are calling for the reversal of a controversial law aimed at job creation because it is seen favouring business interests at the expense of the environment and labour.
    Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil and nickel ore for electric vehicle batteries, has forests bigger than any outside the Amazon and Congo, and environmentalists say the country’s abundant natural reserves could be exploited under the new law.
    The reforms are contained in a so-called “omnibus” bill of changes in more than 70 laws, which allowed parliament to vote in a single swoop and pass the measure on Monday.
    Thousands of people took to the streets of cities across Indonesia over the past three days, part of protests and national strikes against the law.
    The government says the law is needed to improve the investment climate and create jobs in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.    It says the environment will be protected.
    Here are some of the changes to environmental rules:
AMDAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL PERMITS
    The new law merges the approval of business permits with environmental permits.
    To get an environmental permit under the previous legislation, companies exploiting natural resources had to produce an AMDAL – a study to assess the impact investments have on the environment and local communities.
    The new AMDAL process has removed a requirement for companies to consult environmental experts by only allowing “directly impacted communities” to give input for the assessment.
    “Sure, it (AMDAL) is still there, but it is weakened,” Asep Komaruddin, a senior forest campaigner at Greenpeace, told Reuters.
    Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar says undermining environmental laws will now incur more risk to a company as its business permit would also be on the line.
MINIMUM FOREST AREA
    The previous law required Indonesian islands have a forest cover of at least 30%. This requirement has been removed, raising concerns that palm oil plantations and mining companies could sharply step up land clearance.
    The law risks provinces like Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra, home to massive palm oil plantations, losing natural forests within 20 years, environmental group The Sustainable Madani Foundation said.
    “Losing forests is more than just losing tree cover,” said Teguh Surya, the foundation’s executive director.
    “(It also means) increasing intensity of forest fires, floods and landslides, harvest failures, a lack of clean water.”
    Bambang Hendroyono, an environment ministry official, said the previous 30% threshold was “unscientific” and would be replaced by new metrics.
    The new law calls for minimum forest areas to be based on “geophysics,” and “socioeconomic conditions,” but does not provide any specifics.
PENALTIES FOR FOREST FIRES, DUMPING TOXIC WASTE
    In previous regulations, companies were responsible for environmental damage in their concessions, even if there was no proof that the company was at fault.
    This is known in legal terms as “strict liability.”
    Environmentalists say the wording of the section is vague under the new law and proof of wrongdoing is now required to prosecute the company.
    Officials say this is to provide legal certainty in criminal investigations but environmentalists are worried it weakens an article commonly used to prosecute companies for forest fires caused by negligence.
    The new law also removes criminal punishment for the illegal handling of toxic waste.
    “(Toxic waste) dumping is illegal in America, Netherlands, Europe, even China.    It was in Indonesia, but now no longer,” Andri Wibisana, law professor with the University of Indonesia said.
    While the new law does not criminalise illegal toxic waste dumping specifically, it does prosecute those who dispose toxic waste that causes harm to the environment.
INVESTORS FIGHT BACK
    Banks like Citibank and ANZ say if the new jobs law is implemented well, there will be a better investment climate for Indonesia.
    However, 35 global investors managing $4.1 trillion in assets have warned the new law may backfire in light of investors’ growing desire for environmental protections.
    “Efforts to stimulate foreign investment by… easing restrictions on clearing land in palm oil concessions, are counter-intuitive,” said a spokesman for Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management, part of the alliance of investors.
    Their opposition to the law however, does not mean they would dump Indonesian assets they hold, but the law could lower Indonesia’s market attractiveness.
    Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director Indonesia and Timor Leste, said in July that the reforms would “move Indonesia’s environmental legislation further away from international best practices and this is not basically helping Indonesia.”
(Reporting by Fathin Ungku, Gayatri Suroyo, Bernadette Christina Munthe; Additional reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Tabita Diela; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

10/9/2020 China’s Xi Says Intends To Deepen Relations With North Korea: KCNA by Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk during Xi's visit in Pyongyang, North Korea
in this picture released by by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 21, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – In a congratulatory message to Kim Jong Un for the founding anniversary of North Korea’s ruling party, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he intends to deepen relations with Pyongyang, North Korean state media reported on Saturday.
    “We have an intent to successfully defend, consolidate and develop the China-Korea relations together with Korean comrades and propel the long-lasting and stable development of the socialist cause of the two countries,” North Korean state news agency KCNA quoted Xi as saying.
    Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, and events are expected to include a large military parade that may feature some of North Korea’s long-range ballistic missiles for the first time since 2018.
    Xi said he was “greatly pleased” with the achievements that North Korea had made in recent years by engaging with foreign countries in the face of hardships and challenges, KCNA reported.
    After years of cool relations during which China joined the United States and other nations in imposing sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, Xi and Kim met five times in 2018 and 2019.    The North Korean diplomatic offensive included Kim meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.
    While North Korea says it has had no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, strict border closures and other measures it imposed to prevent an outbreak have further strained its economy, which is heavily reliant on trade with China.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

10/9/2020 Azeri Leader Rules Out Concessions Before Nagorno-Karabakh Talks by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
Azerbaijani children are seen in a secondary school classroom where they are settled with their families after fleeing Terter, during the
military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in the town of Barda, Azerbaijan October 9, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azerbaijan’s president ruled out making any concessions to Armenia on Friday ahead of talks aimed at halting the deadliest fighting in the South Caucasus region for more than 25 years.
    President Ilham Aliyev’s uncompromising position in a televised speech appeared to leave little room for de-escalation as the Azeri and Armenian foreign ministers arrived in Moscow.    The talks were expected to be the first diplomatic contact between the enemies since fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave erupted on Sept. 27, killing hundreds of people.
    The mountain enclave belongs to Azerbaijan under international law but broke away in a war as the Soviet Union collapsed and is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
    “Let those holding talks in Moscow know that it’s our territory and we won’t be making any concessions,” Aliyev said after Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov flew to Moscow.
    He said he had proved there was a military solution to the dispute: “We are winning and will get our territory back and ensure our territorial integrity,” Aliyev said. “Let them abandon our territory in peace.”
    The talks in Moscow, attended by Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, follow the launch of a peace drive by France, Russia and the United States at a meeting in Geneva on Thursday, details of which have not been made public.
    The renewed fighting in the decades-old conflict has raised fears of a wider war drawing in Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.
    The clashes have also increased concern about the security of pipelines that carry Azeri oil and gas to Europe.
FRAGILE SITUATION
    The Armenian government said Friday’s talks would focus on a cessation of hostilities and exchanges of bodies and prisoners.
    “We are moving towards a truce soon even if the situation is still fragile,” French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said.
    But Turkey said diplomacy would succeed only if it ensured a withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, which Armenians regard as part of their historic homeland.
    “It is almost certain to fail if it doesn’t also involve a detailed plan to end the occupation,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Al Jazeera.
    Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Friday Nagorno-Karabakh was on the verge of a “humanitarian disaster
    Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said there had been fierce clashes on Friday with ethnic Armenian forces along the line of contact that divides the two sides, and that several areas deep in Azerbaijan had come under fire.
    Shells fell on Stepanakert, the city ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh consider the capital of an independent state, the enclave’s defence ministry said.    Armenia denied its forces had attacked locations deeper in Azerbaijan on Friday.
    Washington, Paris and Moscow have led mediation over Nagorno-Karabakh for almost three decades as co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group.
    The fighting is the worst since a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000 people and ended with a ceasefire that has been violated repeatedly.
    Azerbaijan said on Thursday that 31 Azeri civilians had been killed and 168 wounded since Sept. 27.    It has not disclosed information about military casualties.
    Nagorno-Karabakh said on Friday 376 of its military personnel and 22 civilians had been killed since Sept. 27.
(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Michel Rose and John Irish in Paris, and Alexander Marrow and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow, Writing by Margarita Antidze and Timothy Heritage, Editing by Jon Boyle and Peter Graff)

10/9/2020 Chinese Military Spokesperson Tells U.S. To Halt Provocative Actions
FILE PHOTO: The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain prepares to depart from dry dock at Fleet Activities Yokosuka after an extensive
maintenance period in Yokosuka, Japan, November 27, 2018. Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tyra Watson/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Chinese military spokesperson said on Friday that the U.S. destroyer John McCain had entered waters around the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea claimed by China without China’s permission.
    “We demand the U.S. immediately stop such provocative actions, (and) strictly control and restrict military operations in the sea and air,” the spokesperson said in a post on an official WeChat account.
    The spokesperson also said it would take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security and to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.
(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

10/9/2020 Taiwan President To Pledge Strong Defences As China Tensions Rise by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks at The Third Wednesday Club, a high-profile private
industry trade body in Taipei, Taiwan, August 19, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will pledge to strengthen the island’s defences and work more with regional partners on security in a major speech on Saturday, at a time when tensions with its giant neighbour China have risen dramatically.
    Democratic Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has come under increasing pressure from Beijing, which has ramped up air force activity near the island in the past few weeks including crossing the Taiwan Strait’s sensitive mid line that normally serves as an unofficial buffer zone.
    China says it is responding to “collusion” between Washington and Taipei, angered at growing U.S. support for the self-governed island which Beijing views as a precursor to Taiwan declaring formal independence, a red line for China.
    According to an outline of her national day speech on Saturday, as described to Reuters by a source briefed on its contents, Tsai will say that only solid determination and strength can guarantee security and maintain regional peace.
    Tsai, re-elected by a landslide in January on a promise to stand up to China, will emphasise military modernisation and the speeding up of “asymmetric warfare” capabilities, which refers to making any attack Chinese attack difficult and costly, for example with smart mines and portable missiles.
    Washington, which, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei though it is its strongest global backer, has been pushing Taiwan to modernise its military so they can become a “porcupine,” hard for China to attack.
    Tsai has sought to work more closely with like-minded democracies, and she will say that Taiwan will “strengthen its security partnership role with surrounding countries” while protecting its democracy and sovereignty.
    Taiwan will also “proactively participate” in the building of a future new international and regional order, she will say.
    On relations with China, Tsai will say that Taiwan will stick to its principles and is “determined” to ensure stability, but that this is the responsibility of both parties.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/9/2020 New U.S. Sanctions On Iran An Effort To Stop Meds, Food Purchases: Rouhani
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a news conference on the sidelines of the
United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid
    (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday called new U.S. sanctions on Iran’s banks an attempt to prevent purchases of medicine and food, state broadcaster IRIB reported.
    “The President called the U.S. effort to create serious obstacles for fund transfers for the supply of medicine and food cruel, terrorist and inhumane,” IRIB said.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/9/2020 China Expects To Meet Poverty Alleviation Goal, Sustainability The Next Test by Yew Lun Tian
Ethnic Yi women walk past an installation featuring a logo of Communist Party of China at the Chengbei Ganen Community, a residential complex
built for a relocation programme as part of China's poverty alleviation effort, in Yuexi county, during a government-organised media tour
in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province, China September 11, 2020. Picture taken September 11, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
    LIANGSHAN, China (Reuters) – President Xi Jinping beamed down benevolently from a poster in the new flat of unemployed Jigu Gatie, provided by the Chinese government as part of efforts to tackle poverty nationwide.
.     The posters urging residents to listen, follow and “be grateful” to China’s ruling Communist Party were common in the homes of the new state housing project visited by Reuters in September during a government-organised trip to the southwestern Sichuan province.
    China vowed in 2013 to eradicate extreme rural poverty by the end of this year, and spent 524 billion yuan ($77.17 billion) between 2016 and 2020 to that end, official data showed.    China’s economy was hit by the coronavirus pandemic early this year but has since seen a steady recovery.
    “Thanks to the party, thanks to the government, thanks to General Secretary Xi,” said Jigu, a member of the generally poor Yi ethnic minority.    “I’m very satisfied.”
    With over 90 million rural people lifted from extreme poverty over the past seven years, the government says it is on track to achieve its 2020 goal.
    But the success could falter if authorities shift priorities after declaring victory on rural poverty, analysts say.
    “Once poverty alleviation is no longer a political priority, if funding from the government and state-owned enterprises dries up, many will fall back into poverty,” said Alfred Wu, associate professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.
    The government has said China will continue anti-poverty policies after 2020 but has yet to make an announcement.
    A State Council official said the government was “rushing to come up with transitional policies.”
POLITICAL PRESSURE
    Jigu, in his 60s, moved into his new flat in the Liangshan region last year. A message reading “gifted by the Sichuanese party and government” on the chairs and wardrobe of his apartment remind him to be grateful each day.
    The Sichuan government has invested 77.5 billion yuan to move 1.36 million villagers into new homes within the province, a policy replicated around China.
    Under the scheme in Sichuan, each household in the province pays 2,500 yuan per person to secure a new concrete apartment or house, complete with hot showers and cooking gas – an upgrade from the leaky and windowless shacks many of them came from.
    China’s poverty alleviation programmes heavily rely on fiscal funding and civil servants for implementation, analysts say, raising questions about their sustainability.
    “With the political pressure of meeting the poverty target no longer hanging over them, and with other pressing needs to pay for social programmes that would benefit the wider community, local governments would be hard-pressed to devote already-tight budgets to the absolute poor post-2020,” said Wang Jun, chief economist at lender Zhongyuan Bank.
HARDSHIP POSTINGS
    In addition to funding, the party has encouraged civil servants and party members to “volunteer” to tackle poverty in poor villages.
    Some 58,000 civil servants have been mobilised in Sichuan province, with each assigned one household to bring out of destitution.
    When the mission is accomplished, every poor villager should subsist above the 2020 national poverty line of around 4,000 yuan ($589) per year, official Dong Jiaqi said on the trip.    That is less than half the 10,000 yuan monthly average earned by residents of the capital Beijing.
    The number of registered rural poor in China has fallen to 5.51 million in 2020 from 98.99 million in 2012, said Dong.
    But the so-called hardship postings can be challenging, with one Liangshan official saying some workers had been killed in car crashes on treacherous mountain roads, and another saying he hadn’t seen his family for a long time.
    “Fighting poverty takes up so much of my energy that I haven’t seen my parents in two years,” the second official said.
JOB PROSPECTS
    Villagers moved by the government are offered night school classes, taught job skills and matched with jobs in richer regions.
    After relocating from village houses in harsh living conditions to housing projects, 500,000 poor people in Sichuan found jobs in farming or in animal rearing, 200,000 were employed outside the province and 100,000 found jobs near their new homes, Sichuan governor Yin Li has said.
    But government-funded social enterprises visited by Reuters on the trip showed just how reliant the poor remain on the government.
    At a state-owned apple farm in Liangshan, one manager said employees were guaranteed a certain amount of proceeds from the farm for the first three years and secure employment.    But he declined to say if the farm was profitable or when it may break even.
    Nearby, poor women who sewed ethnic motif on socks at an embroidery workshop were secured steady income thanks to the government which buys “any number of socks they can sew,” said the workshop supervisor.
    Jigu is living with his son, who was given a job after relocating, and is making the most of their new circumstances.    He said he does not miss having to build a fire to cook or depending on the uncertainties of farming to eat.
    “Here, I can eat anything, anytime I want,” he said.    “Life is better now.”
($1 = 6.7898 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Ryan Woo and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

10/10/2020 Ceasefire Due To Enter Force In Nagorno-Karabakh After Moscow Deal< by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian Foreign
Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan in Moscow, Russia October 9, 2020. Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh were due to halt hostilities later on Saturday after a deal was struck in Moscow between Baku and Armenia to allow prisoners and the bodies of the dead to be exchanged.
    It was not immediately clear how long the ceasefire, due to enter into force at midday local time, would last, and there were reports from both sides on Saturday morning of continued fighting.
    The Moscow ceasefire talks was the first diplomatic contact between the two sides since fighting over the mountainous enclave, which is internationally-recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians, erupted on Sept. 27, killing hundreds of people.
    In a statement in the early hours of Saturday after 10 hours of talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who helped mediate between the two sides, said the ceasefire had been agreed on humanitarian grounds.
    The International Committee of the Red Cross would help make the truce work, he said.
    “The specific terms of the ceasefire still need to be agreed,” said Lavrov, who said that Armenia and Azerbaijan had also agreed to enter into what he called substantive peace talks.
    Those talks would be held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, he said.
    Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and his Azeri counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov did not speak to reporters in Moscow after striking the ceasefire deal.
    But Mnatsakanyan later paid tribute on Armenian state TV to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said had played a key role in making sure the talks happened and had personally intervened to help get an agreement.
RIVAL ALLEGATIONS OF ATTACKS
    The Azeri defence ministry in a statement accused ethnic Armenian forces of shelling populated areas on Saturday morning, an allegation Yerevan denied.
    Armenia’s defence ministry in turn accused the Azeris of using attack drones on a populated settlement inside Armenia and said it looked like Baku was trying to change the facts on the ground before the ceasefire took hold.
    Ethnic Armenian officials in Nagorno-Karabakh also accused the Azeris of firing missiles at Stepanakert, the biggest town in the region, but said there was no data on casualties yet.
    Baku denied shelling or using drones against civilian areas.
    Nagorno-Karabkh officials said that 28 members of their defence forces had been killed in fighting since Friday.
    Renewed fighting in the decades-old conflict has raised fears of a wider war drawing in Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.
    The fighting is the worst since a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000 people and ended with a ceasefire that has been violated repeatedly.
(Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Margarita Antidze; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

10/10/2020 North Korea Appears To Hold Anniversary Military Parade, South Korea Says by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO: People watch a television showing a file picture of a North Korean missile for a news report on
North Korea firing short-range ballistic missiles, in Seoul, South Korea, July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea appears to have held a military parade early on Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party, South Korea’s military said.
    The anniversary, celebrated with a raft of concerts and festivals, was closely watched around the region as it was seen as an event where leader Kim Jong Un could deliver messages to domestic and foreign audiences.
    The North’s state media has not shown any images of a parade.
    South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it spotted signs that a parade involving large-scale military equipment and personnel took place in the capital Pyongyang but gave no further details.
    “There was a sign that North Korea conducted a military parade this morning at Kim Il Sung Square, mobilising large scale equipment and personnel,” it said in a statement.
    “South Korea and U.S. intelligence authorities are closely monitoring developments, including for the possibility that it was the main event.”
    For weeks commercial satellite imagery has shown thousands of North Korean soldiers practicing marching, and South Korean officials have said the North could use a parade to unveil a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), or a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.
    Foreign diplomats in Pyongyang have often been invited to observe past celebrations.    But the Russian Embassy said on social media that all diplomatic missions have been advised this year to “refrain as much as possible” from travelling in the city, approaching the event venue and taking photos and videos.
    The event comes as the isolated country carries out strict measures to prevent the new coronavirus – the secretive state has not reported any domestic infections.    State media said the curbs have caused delays in some of Kim’s key economic and construction projects, already dogged by international sanctions.
    “But it is an impressively large gathering during a global pandemic, suggesting North Korean authorities are concerned more with political history and national morale than with preventing a COVID-19 superspreader event,” said Leif-Eric Easley, who teaches at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
    The last time North Korea broadcast a military parade live on television was in 2017, when it showed off many large ICBMs amid heightened tension with the United States.
    ICBMs were once again paraded in February 2018, but no international media were allowed to observe.    Shortly after, Kim began meeting international leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump, and no large missiles have been displayed since.
    Denuclearisation talks with Washington have broken down, and South Korean officials said on Thursday that Kim could use the military parade as a “low intensity” show of power ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.
    In a congratulatory message to Kim for the anniversary, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he intended to “defend, consolidate and develop” ties with North Korea, its state media said on Saturday.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and William Mallard)

10/10/2020 Taiwan President Calls For ‘Meaningful Dialogue’ With China by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during National Day celebrations in front
of the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan, October 10, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan wants to have “meaningful dialogue” with China on an equal basis, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Saturday, extending an olive branch at a time of heightened military tension with Beijing, which claims the island as sovereign Chinese territory.
    Democratic Taiwan has come under increasing pressure from Beijing, which has ramped up air force activity near the island in the past few weeks, including crossing the Taiwan Strait’s sensitive mid line that normally serves as an unofficial buffer zone.
    China says it is responding to “collusion” between Washington and Taipei, angered at growing U.S. support for the self-governed island.    Beijing views this a precursor to Taiwan declaring formal independence, a red line for China.
    Speaking at National Day celebrations, Tsai described the situation in the Taiwan Strait as “quite tense.”    This, along with disputes in the South China Sea, a China-India border conflict and China’s crackdown in Hong Kong, showed democracy and peace in the region were facing big challenges, she said.
    If Beijing can heed Taiwan’s voice and jointly facilitate reconciliation and peaceful dialogue, regional tension can surely be resolved, she added.
    “As long as the Beijing authorities are willing to resolve antagonisms and improve cross-strait relations, while parity and dignity are maintained, we are willing to work together to facilitate meaningful dialogue,” Tsai said.
    There was no immediate reaction from China, which cut off a formal talks mechanism in 2016 after she first won office.
    Tsai said she was committed to maintaining stability in the Taiwan Strait, but that this was the responsibility of both sides.
    Still, she has made strengthening Taiwan’s armed forces a priority, and said she would keep pushing this, upholding the principle of neither seeking war nor fearing it.
    “Our commitment to our sovereignty and democratic values will not change, but we will also maintain strategic flexibility and be responsive to changes,” she said, without elaborating.
    The United States has been pushing Taiwan to modernise its military so they can become a “porcupine,” hard for China to attack.    Washington, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei, though it is its strongest global backer.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard)

10/10/2020 Bangladesh Weighs Death Penalty For Rapists As Protests Flare by Ruma Paul
Students and activists take part in an ongoing protest demanding justice for an alleged gang rape of a woman in Noakhali, southern
district of Bangladesh, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Dhaka, Bangladesh, October 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
    DHAKA (Reuters) – Protests rocked Bangladesh on Saturday as hundreds of people took to the streets to demand justice after a series of rapes and sexual assaults that have spurred the government to seek capital punishment for offenders.
    Such incidents have surged in Bangladesh in recent years, with gang rapes accounting for more than a fifth of the nearly 1,000 attacks reported between January and September, says human rights group Ain-o-Salish Kendra.
    “Hang the rapists,” shouted protesters gathered in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere, hundreds of students among them. Many carried placards bearing messages such as “No mercy to rapists” and “Please tell me, am I next?
    This week’s protests have prompted the government to consider introducing the death penalty for offenders, with the cabinet set to receive a proposal for urgent amendments on Monday.
    “We are making the proposal on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s orders,” Law Minister Anisul Huq told Reuters.    “We want to make sure those who are guilty get the highest punishment.”
    Saturday’s demonstrations were sparked by a video of a group of men stripping and attacking a woman for almost half an hour in the southeastern district of Noakhali.
    An investigation by an autonomous state body, the National Human Rights Commission, found the woman in the video had been raped repeatedly and terrorised with weapons by one of the group over the last year.
    Also fuelling outcry was the gang rape of a woman in a hostel in the northern district of Sylhet that led to the arrests of several members of the student wing of the ruling party.
    On Saturday, Huq, the law minister, vowed legal action against the criminals regardless of their political ties, saying he aimed for their punishment without “unnecessary” delays.
    Many more rapes go unreported because women fear being stigmatised. Rights activists blame the increasing rapes on a lack of awareness, a culture of impunity and protection of suspects by influential individuals for political reasons.
    Even when survivors file a complaint, prosecution is very rare and takes years to complete.
    The United Nations and rights groups have called for urgent reform of the criminal justice system to ensure perpetrators are held responsible.
(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

10/10/2020 Shaky Ceasefire Takes Effect Between Armenia And Azerbaijan by OAN Newsroom
In this image made from a video released by Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, Azerbaijan’s solders walk in a
formation on a road during a military conflict in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. (Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry via AP)
    A temporary ceasefire has been established between Armenia and Azerbaijan, though it remains unclear how long the agreement will last.    According to reports, the temporary truce came after 10 hours of brokering by Russia.
    It aims to allow for an exchange of prisoners and the recovery of bodies.    However, both sides accused each other of attacks within minutes of the ceasefire taking hold.
    Residents in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region have said they never wanted a fight, but that they won’t be defeated.
    “We did not start this war, we are ready for a ceasefire,” stated one resident.    “We do not want war or any one of our children to die.”
Pro-Armenian protesters protest calling for an end to hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh also
known as Artsakh, in Whitehall, London, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
    The disputed region is run by ethnic Armenians, but is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
    More than 300 people have died since the latest round of violence, which started at the end of September.

10/10/2020 Iran Short Of ‘Significant Quantity’ Of Potential Bomb Material: IAEA Boss
FILE PHOTO: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi delivers his speech at the opening of
the IAEA General Conference at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    ZURICH (Reuters) – Iran does not at this stage have enough enriched uranium to make one nuclear bomb under the U.N. atomic watchdog’s official definition, the agency’s head told an Austrian paper.
    “The Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and to a much higher degree than they have committed themselves to.    And this amount is growing by the month,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Rafael Grossi told Die Presse in an interview published on its website on Saturday.
    Asked about how long Iran would need to build a nuclear weapon — the so-called “breakout time,” he said:
    “In the IAEA we do not talk about breakout time.    We look at the significant quantity, the minimum amount of enriched uranium or plutonium needed to make an atomic bomb.    Iran does not have this significant quantity at the moment.”
    Iran denies ever having had a nuclear weapons programme, saying its nuclear programme is purely for energy purposes.
    The IAEA defines “significant quantity” as the approximate amount of nuclear material for which the possibility of manufacturing a nuclear explosive device cannot be excluded.
    The most recent quarterly IAEA report on Iran last month said it had 2,105.4 kg of enriched uranium, far above the 202.8 kg limit in a 2015 deal with big powers but a fraction of the enriched uranium it had before the accord.
    It is also enriching to up to 4.5% purity, far below the 20% it achieved before the deal and the 90% that is considered weapons-grade.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/10/2020 Philippines Says It And China Reaffirm Strong Relations
FILE PHOTO: Philippines' Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. speaks during a press briefing with Japanese Foreign
Minister Toshimitsu Motegi after their meeting in Manila, Philippines, January 9, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo
    MANILA (Reuters) – The foreign ministers of Philippines and China reaffirmed their countries’ strong relations on Saturday, Manila’s foreign ministry said, amid bilateral tensions over the South China Sea.
    China, which has for years been locked in maritime disputes with other coastal states in the South China Sea, has in recent months held exercises in disputed parts of the strategic waterway, at a time when other claimants are battling coronavirus outbreaks.
    “Both sides reaffirmed the continuing vitality of relations despite the constraints imposed by COVID-19,” the Philippines’ foreign ministry said in a statement following talks in Yunnan between Teodoro Locsin and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
    Locsin and Wang engaged in a “candid and in-depth exchange on regional security concerns,” the ministry said.    The statement did not mention any discussion about the South China Sea, believed to be rich in energy reserves and marine resources.
The ministers “pledged to forge ahead with sustained policy dialogues, as well as economic and infrastructure cooperation projects,” it said. (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/10/2020 Chinese App Allows Small Glimpse Beyond ‘Great Firewall’
FILE PHOTO: A sign of Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd is pictured at Internet Security
Conference 2018 in Beijing, China September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
    BEIJING (Reuters) – An app launched this week in China allows access to some content on Western social media sites long banned domestically such as YouTube, marking the first product by a major Chinese tech firm that helps internet users bypass the Great Firewall.
    Tuber was launched on third-party Android stores in China by a subsidiary of Qihoo 360, the biggest Chinese cybersecurity firm.    The app, which has since seen millions of downloads, is not available on the Apple store just yet.
    While such proxy apps are not new in China, where a virtual private network (VPN) service is typically needed to allow domestic users passage to sites such as Google or Facebook, the arrival of Tuber suggests a slight lowering of the Great Firewall.
    While welcomed by internet users in China, some complained about the app’s slowness.    References to sensitive political issues such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and the Hong Kong protests were also censored in part, according to Reuters checks.
    Users of the app must also register with personal information such as their identity card numbers and real names, while being warned against flouting state interests and going against the country’s socialist system.
    Qihoo 360 could not immediately be reached for comment.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Mark Potter)

10/11/2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Truce Under Severe Strain As Both Sides Allege Violations by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
Search and rescue teams work on the blast site hit by a rocket during the fighting over the breakaway region
of Nagorno-Karabakh in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan October 11, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – A Russian-brokered humanitarian ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh was under severe strain on Sunday a day after it was agreed, with Azerbaijan and Armenia accusing each other of serious violations and crimes against civilians.
    The ceasefire, clinched after marathon talks in Moscow advocated by President Vladimir Putin, was meant to halt fighting to allow ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azeri forces to swap prisoners and war dead.
    The Moscow talks were the first diplomatic contact between the two since fighting over the mountainous enclave erupted on Sept. 27, killing hundreds of people.    The enclave is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
    Both sides accused one another of breaking the ceasefire almost immediately on Saturday, and Azerbaijan gave the impression in public comments from top officials that it saw it as only a brief and temporary breathing space anyway.
    On Sunday, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of heavily shelling a residential area in Ganja, its second largest city, in the early hours of the morning, and of hitting an apartment building.
    The Azeri Prosecutor General’s Office said five people had been killed and 28 wounded in the attack, which it said violated the norms of the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians.
    The Armenian defence ministry called the Azeri allegations “an absolute lie” and accused Azerbaijan of continuing to shell populated areas inside Karabakh, including Stepanakert, the region’s biggest city.
    A Reuters photographer in Ganja saw rescue workers carrying one dead person from the ruins of a large apartment building on Sunday morning.    The structure had been almost levelled.    An excavator was clearing the debris.
    Buildings and cars in the immediate vicinity had also been severely damaged.
    Reuters could not independently verify Azeri assertions about the number of fatalities.
    Azerbaijan accused Armenia of also launching an unsuccessful rocket attack on an Azeri hydro-electric power station in Mingachevir. Ethnic Armenian forces in Karabakh denied the assertion.
    Arayik Haratyunyan, the leader of ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, described the situation as relatively calm on Sunday morning, but said he did not know how long it would last and that the frontline remained tense.
    He accused Azeri forces of trying to unsuccessfully take control of the town of Hadrut, and said the process of the two sides exchanging prisoners should have started on Sunday, but that it was unclear if and when that would happen.
    Renewed fighting in the decades-old conflict has raised fears of a wider war drawing in Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.
    The clashes have also increased concern about the security of pipelines that carry Azeri oil and gas to Europe.
    The fighting is the worst since a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000 people and ended with a ceasefire that has been violated repeatedly.
(Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/11/2020 South Korea Eases Social Distancing Curbs Amid COVID-19 Downtrend by Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: People take a walk as they wear masks to avoid the spread of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) at a park in Seoul, South Korea, October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea will relax some rules on social distancing from Monday, allowing nightspots to re-open and spectators to attend sports events, after new coronavirus cases edged lower in recent weeks, authorities said.
    Daily infections have fallen largely into the double-digit range in the past two weeks, down from 440 during outbreaks at a church and a political rally in August that prompted clampdowns on gatherings and some businesses.
    “We will lower the level of social distancing nationwide but maintain controls on risk factors such as the door-to-door sales industry,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting on Sunday.
    “Many citizens are feeling fatigue over prolonged distancing, and we also took its negative impact on the economy into consideration.”
    The relaxation means places of entertainment, such as nightclubs, karaoke bars and buffets can re-open, and audiences of up to 30% of stadium capacity will be allowed at sports matches such as the popular Korea Baseball Organization League, as long as they comply with anti-virus guidelines.
    But high-risk activities such as door-to-door sales businesses and small religious gatherings remain banned, with new limits on guests and spacing at nightspots and indoor sport venues in the heavily populated Seoul area, the government said.
    Health Minister Park Neung-hoo warned against complacency, saying the country still faced the dangers of what he called a “twindemic” of the virus and a winter seasonal flu.
    “We all know from past experiences that any slight carelessness could lead to another large-scale spread of the virus,” he told a separate briefing.
    The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 58 cases by midnight on Saturday, taking total infections to 24,606, with 432 deaths.
    Of the new cases, 46 were domestically transmitted, most of them in the greater Seoul region, where small clusters continue to emerge from churches, door-to-door sales firms and medical institutions.
(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps)
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by William Mallard and Clarence Fernandez)

10/11/2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Truce Frays As Both Sides Allege Attacks by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
Search and rescue teams work on the blast site hit by a rocket during the fighting over the breakaway region
of Nagorno-Karabakh in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan October 11, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azerbaijan and Armenia accused each other of serious violations and crimes against civilians, and Azerbaijan also said it had launched airstrikes as a day-old humanitarian ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh looked increasingly frayed on Sunday.
    The Russian-brokered ceasefire, clinched after marathon talks in Moscow, was meant to halt fighting to allow ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azeri forces to swap prisoners and war dead.
    The talks were the first diplomatic contact between the two since fighting over the mountainous enclave erupted on Sept. 27, killing hundreds of people. Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
    Both sides accused one another of breaking the ceasefire almost immediately, and Azerbaijan gave the impression in public comments from top officials that it saw it as only a brief breathing space anyway.
    Azerbaijan, making the first claim of an attack since the truce, said on Sunday it had carried out airstrikes against an ethnic Armenian regiment, inflicting heavy losses.    Reuters could not independently verify that claim.
    A spokesman for the leader of Nagorno-Karabakh told Reuters he did not have information about the alleged attack.
    Earlier on Sunday, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of heavily shelling a residential area in Ganja, its second largest city, in the early hours of the morning, and of hitting an apartment building.
    The Azeri Prosecutor General’s Office said nine people had been killed and 34 wounded in the attack.    Reuters could not independently verify Azeri assertions about the number of deaths or injuries.
    A Reuters photographer in Ganja saw rescue workers carrying one dead person from the ruins of the apartment building on Sunday morning.    The structure had been almost levelled.    An excavator was clearing the debris.
    Buildings and cars in the immediate vicinity had also been severely damaged.
CASUALTIES MOUNT
    Baku says more than 40 civilians have been killed and 200 injured since the start of the conflict.
    The Armenian defence ministry called the Azeri allegations about the attack on Ganja “an absolute lie” and accused Azerbaijan of continuing to shell populated areas inside Karabakh, including Stepanakert, the region’s biggest city.
    Reuters footage from Stepanakert showed a small brick house damaged by shelling, its windows shattered and its roof caved in.    The Karabakh authorities said at least five civilians had been killed since the ceasefire was supposed to take effect on Saturday and that 429 servicemen had been killed since fighting erupted last month.
    Azerbaijan accused Armenia of also launching an unsuccessful rocket attack on an Azeri hydro-electric power station in Mingachevir.    Ethnic Armenian forces in Karabakh denied the assertion.
    Arayik Haratyunyan, the leader of ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, early on Sunday described the overall situation as relatively calm, but said he did not know how long it would last and that the frontline remained tense.
    He accused Azeri forces of trying to unsuccessfully take control of the town of Hadrut, and said the process of the two sides exchanging prisoners should have started on Sunday, but that it was unclear if and when that would happen.
    Renewed fighting in the decades-old conflict has raised fears of a wider war drawing in Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.
    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu asked his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in a phone call on Sunday to press Armenia to abide by the terms of the truce, Turkey’s foreign ministry said.
    Armenia’s foreign minister was due in Moscow on Monday for talks with officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk group led by France, Russia and the United States.
    The fighting is the worst since a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000 people and ended with a ceasefire that has been violated repeatedly.
(Additional reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Moscow; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by William Maclean and Frances Kerry)

10/11/2020 Analysis: North Korea’s Kim Speaks Softly, Shows Off New Military Might by Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as he attends a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling
Workers' Party of Korea, in this image released by North Korea's Central News Agency on October 10, 2020. KCNA via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s unprecedented nighttime military parade on Saturday showcased an unusually broad array of new weapons, from a show-stopping “monster” ballistic missile to previously unseen battle tanks.
    The hardware, likely still in varying stages of development, offered leader Kim Jong Un a chance to show the world his cutting-edge military power while adding practical capabilities to the North Korea’s already formidable nuclear and conventional forces, experts said.
    Kim is walking a fine line, seeking to increase pressure on the United States to ease sanctions while not destroying rapport with U.S. President Donald Trump or Pyongyang’s partners in China.
    “Kim Jong Un’s speech was not threatening to the United States, instead labelling North Korea’s nuclear forces as self-defensive,” said Bruce Klingner, a retired CIA North Korea analyst now at the Heritage Foundation.    “The clear message was that, counter to U.S. claims, the North Korean nuclear threat has not been solved.”
    Video from the parade suggested a huge intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) potentially more lethal either because of multiple warheads or a bigger payload, larger missile carriers, a next-generation submarine-launched missile, and advances in conventional weaponry, military analysts said.
MULTIPLE WARHEADS?
    The star of Saturday’s show was a massive, previously unseen ICBM carried on an equally huge “transporter-erector-launcher” (TEL) vehicle with 11 axles.
    Estimated to be 25 to 26 metres (82 to 85 feet) long and 2.5 to 2.9 metres (8 to 9.5 feet) in diameter, the unidentified missile would be the largest road-mobile ICBM in the world, military analysts said.
    Given that the Hwasong-15, the largest missile ever test-flown by North Korea, can already target anywhere in the United States, the most likely practical use for the new ICBM would be the ability to carry multiple warheads, said Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network.
    It is much cheaper for North Korea to add warheads than for the United States to add interceptors, said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS).
    “If each new North Korean ICBM can carry 3-4 warheads, we would need about 12-16 interceptors for each missile,” he said on Twitter.    “The last time the U.S. bought 14 interceptors, it cost $1 billion.”
    Other analysts said the missile could simply be designed to carry a single, larger warhead.
    “A bigger warhead doesn’t necessarily mean multiple warheads, a technology I believe North Korea has not secured yet,” said Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korea Navy officer who is now a professor at Kyungnam University’s Far East Institute in Seoul.
MISSILE CARRIERS
    Analysts said it was also notable that North Korea appeared to have built the huge new TELs to carry the new missiles.
    “They have a very limited supply of long TELs they acquired from China,” said another CNS researcher, Dave Schmerler, adding that the lack of vehicles has limited the number of ICBMs that could be deployed.    “So the longer TELs we saw were indigenously produced.”
    But the massive size of the new missile and its carrier also has drawbacks, said Markus Schiller, a missile expert based in Europe.
    “Only special roads and bridges could support this in fuelled condition,” he said.    “No sane person would drive this ticking bomb through the North Korean countryside.”
    It would likely take as much as a half a day to fuel such a large missile, making it difficult to quickly deploy in a war, meaning the missile’s main purpose is likely a political warning, Schiller said.
SUBMARINE MISSILE
    North Korea also unveiled what appeared to be a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), labelled the Pukguksong-4.
    “If the new SLBM is intended to be deployed, it may be intended for the new conventionally powered ballistic missile submarine that North Korea hinted at building in July 2019,” analysts at 38 North, a U.S.-based think tank, said in a report.
    At least some parts of the missile’s motor case appeared to be filament-wound, which would reduce the missile’s structure weight and allow greater range and payload capability, the report said.
CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS
    The parade featured what appeared to be new or updated weapons for North Korea’s conventional military, one of the largest in the world.
    The North displayed rows upon rows of multiple launch rocket systems and short-range ballistic missiles that were heavily tested over the past year.
    “My biggest concern was the solid-fuel, short-range tactical missiles that North Korea had focused on developing over the past year or so,” said Chun Yung-woo, a former South Korean nuclear negotiator.
    The parade also displayed new mobile air-defence radar vehicles and what appeared to be an entirely new tank with anti-tank missiles and smoke grenade launchers more closely integrated into the design than previous imported models.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by William Mallard)

10/12/2020 Asia-Pacific Countries Begin To Ease Pandemic-Related Travel Bans, But Hurdles Remain by Jamie Freed
FILE PHOTO: A staff member of All Nippon Airways wearing a protective mask and a face shield works at a boarding gate amid
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan June 4, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asia-Pacific countries including Singapore, Australia and Japan are gradually easing some international travel restrictions as coronavirus cases slow, in hopes of helping to revive their economies.
    International travel in Asia has collapsed during the pandemic due to border closures, with passenger numbers down 97% in August, according to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines.
    Although European countries that had been more open add fresh travel restrictions as cases rise, in Asia the trend is toward easing, though not always on a bilateral basis.
    For now, few people are likely to travel because of testing and insurance requirements, and in some cases the need to quarantine upon return home, meaning the deals offer limited hope for airlines and the tourism industry.
    A Singapore-Indonesia deal announced on Monday for essential business and official travel will require an application and COVID-19 swab tests both before and after travel.
    Singapore had established similar agreements with China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and opened unilaterally to general visitors from New Zealand, Brunei, Vietnam and most of Australia.
    But Singapore transport minister Ong Ye Kung said in parliament this month that the number of travellers remained small, with the country’s main airport serving 1.5% of its usual passenger volume.
    New Zealanders will be able to travel to some parts of Australia starting Friday without quarantining, including to New South Wales, Canberra and the Northern Territory.
    However, New Zealanders who return from Australia must quarantine for two weeks under government supervision at the cost of NZ$3100 ($2,064.91) for the first person and more for additional family members.
    New Zealand, due to hold an election on Oct. 17, has said it does not plan open its borders to Australians for now.
    Australia is also in talks with Japan, South Korea, Singapore and South Pacific nations on reopening travel as coronavirus infections ease, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.
    Japan and Vietnam will allow short-term business travel with each other, the Yomiuri daily said on Saturday.
    The pact, which will take effect by the end of October at the earliest, follows similar steps to ease business travel restrictions to Singapore and South Korea, the paper added.
    Japan is also planning to remove a ban on overseas travel to China and 11 other countries and regions including Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia next month, the Yomiuri said, though it would still advise against non-essential travel.
    Asked about the report, immigration official Seiji Matano said that no decision had been made, but that the government would consider how to reopen traffic in a way that prevents infection.
    Many of the countries to which Japan will reportedly allow travel ban most non-citizens and non-residents from entering.
    Japan allows citizens, residents, and visa holders to reenter the country after testing negative for COVID-19 at the airport, with a capacity of about 10,000 per day.
(Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; additional reporting by Rocky Swift in Tokyo and John Geddie in Singapore. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

10/12/2020 Hong Kong Leader Postpones Annual Policy Address Until After Beijing Talks
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends a news conference to announce a postponement
of her annual policy address, in Hong Kong, China October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has postponed her annual policy address scheduled for Wednesday in order to go to     Beijing for talks on how the central government can help with the financial hub’s economic recovery.
    Lam said she would go to Beijing this month and aimed to hold her policy address by the end of November.
    She said she would discuss wide-ranging measures with the central government, including some related to the Greater Bay area – a region that includes Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in China’s Guangdong province – the finance sector and tech innovation, without giving details.
    “It is not a matter of waiting for directions,” Lam told a news conference on Monday when asked about the postponement of her address.
    “It is a matter of responding to a positive indication from the central government that they want to take into account the chief executive’s recommendations, that they really want to facilitate those policy measures so that Hong Kong people have more confidence that the economy will bounce back.”
    The central government’s role in the semi-autonomous former British colony has been in the spotlight, in particular with the imposition in June of a security law after months of pro-democracy protests – the most intense in decades – last year.
    The protests were triggered in part by fears in Hong Kong that the central government was whittling away the freedoms granted when the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula.
    The protests and later the novel coronavirus have battered the city’s economy with full year gross domestic product (GDP) forecast to contract 6% to 8%.
    Lam said the central government had asked her to make the trip to Beijing.
    Last year, Lam delivered her policy speech on video after being heckled by pro-democracy lawmakers.
    Lam also said she will visit the neighbouring city of Shenzhen for this week’s anniversary of the establishment of China’s first special economic zone there 40 years ago.br>     President Xi Jinping is due to deliver a speech in Shenzhen on Wednesday but Lam said she had not scheduled a meeting with him there. (Reporting by Clare Jim and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Robert Birsel)

10/12/2020 Taiwan Claims Entrapment After China Shows Spy ‘Confession’
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong anti-government protesters attend a rally in support of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen outside
the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan January 11, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
    TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Taiwan’s government has denounced China, citing entrapment and manipulation, after Chinese state television aired a documentary showing a Taiwanese citizen confessing to visiting Hong Kong to support anti-government protesters there.
    China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, has repeatedly denounced Taipei for offering support to Chinese-administered Hong Kong’s protest movement, saying the forces of Taiwan and Hong Kong independence are colluding.
    Taiwan says it has a duty to stand up for democracy and human rights.
    Late Sunday, Chinese state television showed a documentary detailing what it said was a confession by Morrison Lee, who was arrested by police in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, last year, on suspicion of breaching national security laws.
    State television said Lee had gone to Hong Kong to support the protesters, and had then gone to Shenzhen to secretly film Chinese paramilitary police.
    “I’m very sorry. I did many bad, wrong things in the past, perhaps harming the motherland and the country,” Lee told the programme, dressed in prison garb.
    In Taipei, the Mainland Affairs Council labelled the show “complete nonsense.”
    “This is malicious political hyping up by the other side, entrapping one of our people into engaging in spying activities, deliberately damaging relations across the Taiwan Strait,” it said.
    China should stop trying to frame Taiwanese citizens, the council added, saying putting Lee on television was contrary to the legal process.
    Rights groups and Western governments have expressed anger at China for previous instances where suspects have been put on state television to confess before their trials.
    The spying accusations come as relations between Taipei and Beijing continue to nosedive, with China stepping up military drills near the island in recent weeks.
    Taiwan says it will not provoke China or seek war, but that it will defend itself and stand up for its democratic way of life.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee and Beijing newsroom. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

10/12/2020 New Attacks Increase Strains On Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
FILE PHOTO: A man carries a table away from ruins at a blast site hit by a rocket during the fighting over the
breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan October 11, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces accused each other on Monday of launching new attacks in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, increasing pressure on a humanitarian ceasefire intended to stop the heaviest fighting over the enclave for more than 25 years.
    Azerbaijan said its military positions had been shelled overnight.    Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians, said its forces had repelled Azeri army attacks.
    The ceasefire had already been badly frayed on Sunday, when Azerbaijan said it launched airstrikes against an Armenian regiment, following what it said was an Armenian rocket attack on a civilian apartment building.
    Armenia denied both Azeri assertions, and Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
    The humanitarian ceasefire, which went into force on Saturday, was agreed at talks in Moscow to allow ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azeri army to swap prisoners and bodies of people killed in fighting.
    The talks were the first diplomatic contact between the two former Soviet republics since fighting over the mountain enclave broke out on Sept. 27.    About 500 people have been reported killed since then.
    Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Armenia’s foreign Minister, was due to hold talks in Moscow later on Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
    Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said on Monday Armenian forces had tried repeatedly to attack its positions around the Aghdere-Aghdam and Fizuli-Jabrail regions, and were continuing to shell territories in the Goranboy, Terter and Aghdam regions insde Azerbaijan.
    Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said their forces had inflicted losses on Azeri forces and that large-scale military operations were continuing in the Hadrut area of the tiny enclave.
    Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
    The conflict has raised fears of a wider war drawing in Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.
    The renewed fighting is the worst since a 1994 ceasefire ended a war over Nagorno-Karabakh that killed at least 30,000.    It has also raised concerns about the security of pipelines in Azerbaijan that carry Azeri natural gas and oil to Europe.
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi; Writing by Sujata Rao, Editing by Andrew Osborn and Timothy Heritage)

10/12/2020 Analysis: ‘I Have Failed’ – Kim Jong Un Shows Tearful Side In Confronting North Korea’s Hardships by Josh Smith
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un reacts during a speech at a military parade marking 75th founding anniversary of
Workers' Party of Korea (Wpk), in this still image taken from video on October 12, 2020. KRT TV/ via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to shed tears at the weekend as he thanked citizens for their sacrifices, in the most striking demonstration yet of how he is relying on his “man of the people” persona to tackle his country’s deepening crises.
    Though the young leader has consolidated his rule over the isolated nation with ruthless purges, North Korea watchers say he has also sought to portray himself as a more traditional political leader than his eccentric father, Kim Jong Il.
    Speaking at a military parade on Saturday, Kim became emotional as he paid tribute to troops for their response to national disasters and preventing a coronavirus outbreak and apologised to citizens for failing to raise living standards.
    “Kim’s modesty and candour, and his tears and choking, were all highly unusual, even for someone who publicly acknowledges shortcomings and has an established pattern of being expressive,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, an independent researcher and former open-source North Korea analyst for the U.S. government.
    The speech, which was clearly carefully designed to resonate with the domestic audience, likely cemented Kim’s image as a competent, charismatic leader who also has a human side to him, she said.
‘I AM SORRY’
    Kim – who broke into wide smiles when huge new ballistic missiles were displayed in the parade – blamed North Korea’s continuing economic hardships on international sanctions, the coronavirus crisis and a series of damaging typhoons and floods.
    Since succeeding his father in 2011, Kim has made economic progress a cornerstone of his agenda. He also U.S. President Donald Trump, forming an unprecedented personal relationship that included flowery letters.
    But ambitious plans for international trade, construction projects, and other economic measures have stalled in the face of sanctions imposed over his nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
    The economy took a further hit when North Korea closed its borders to nearly all traffic due to the pandemic, and summer typhoons caused flooding that further threatened food supplies.
    “Our people have placed trust, as high as sky and as deep as sea, on me, but I have failed to always live up to it satisfactorily,” Kim said, at one point appearing to choke up.    “I am really sorry for that.”
    Kim said the country’s success in preventing a coronavirus outbreak and overcoming other challenges was a “great victory achieved” by the citizens.
    “Our people have always been grateful to our Party, but it is none other than themselves who surely deserve a bow of gratitude,” he said.
    So much focus on citizens was a major departure for such events, where speeches are usually filled with more ideological themes and lauding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, said Lee.     “The speech was clearly intended to be for and about the people,” she said.
PERSONAL APPROACH
    In contrast to his remote father, Kim has taken his wife to political summits with foreign leaders, often stoops to hug children and mingles with workers at public appearances.
    Some of this folksy approach has shaped his public response to the country’s economic challenges, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, a North Korean economy expert at the U.S-based Stimson Center think-tank.
    “Kim has been more personally present and visible at disaster reconstruction sites and the like, and he’s prioritised a lot of the symbolic construction projects designed to show economic progress,” he said.
    But despite some early moves towards embracing markets, Kim is not an out-an-out reformer and his policy prescriptions have tended to draw on the North Korea playbook honed by his father and grandfather, state founder Kim Il Sung, Silberstein said.
    The United Nations says that, under Kim, North Korea has continued to quash basic freedoms, maintaining political prison camps and strict surveillance of its citizens.    Kim had his uncle executed, according to state media, and the United States accused his government of using the chemical warfare agent VX assassinate his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, in 2017, an allegation Pyongyang has denied.
    Last week Kim called on his country to embark on an 80-day “speed battle” – a campaign to attain economic goals before a congress in January to decide a new five-year plan.
    Such campaigns, which involve citizens performing “voluntary” extra labour, have been described by some residents as “one of the most exhausting, irritating parts of everyday life,” Silberstein said.
    “Kim’s essentially left with tears, apologies, speed battles and squeezing out funds wherever they can be found,” he said.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/12/2020 Analysis: South Korea Sees Hope And Threat In Mixed Message From North’s Kim by Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles are seen during a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in this image released
by North Korea's Central News Agency on October 10, 2020. KCNA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA./File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean officials have seized on conciliatory comments by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the weekend as a sign that tension could be easing but also worry the huge number of rockets he showcased is evidence that peace may be elusive.
    Kim sent mixed signals as he addressed an unprecedented night-time military parade early on Saturday, wishing the neighbouring Koreas would “hold hands” again after the novel coronavirus pandemic is over.
    While much of the world was captivated by the appearance of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), officials in South Korea were far more concerned by the display of new multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and fast, manoeuvrable short-range missiles that would be ideal for striking targets in the South.
    “The parade revealed not only an advanced ICBM but also MLRS that pose a direct threat to South Korea,” said South Korean opposition leader Kim Chong-in.
    “They’ve not changed, their threats have grown even bigger.”
    South Korean ruling party leader and former prime minister Lee Nak-yon said he took hope from Kim’s overture to the South as a “positive sign” but worried about what the display of new weapons said about North Korea’s intentions.
    “North Korea showed advanced weapons including a new ICBM, which indicated it has not abandoned its resolve to develop weapons of mass destruction, and those weapons can threaten peace on the Korean peninsula,” Lee told a party meeting.
    November’s U.S. election is compounding the uncertainty especially as the tone of ties between the two Koreas is often set by the state of North Korea’s relations with its old enemy the United States.
    When a landmark summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 brought an unprecedented easing of tension between those two countries, North Korea’s dealings with South Korea also saw a remarkable thaw.
    But relations on the peninsula have been tense since a second summit between Kim and Trump collapsed last year, and they took another blow last month when North Korean troops shot dead a South Korean fisheries official detained at sea.
‘CROCODILE TEARS’
    Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul, said despite Kim’s conciliatory comments towards South Korea, his main message on Saturday was aimed at the United States.
    “By showing a new ICBM, the North suggested they can test it any time if things don’t go well after the election.    Inter-Korean ties don’t count to them,” Shin said.
    The South Korean government said Kim’s speech would foster better ties but it urged North Korea to stick to agreements preventing armed clashes and accept a request for a joint investigation into the shooting of the fisheries official.
    South Korean opposition leader Kim derided a teary display by Kim as he spoke of the sacrifices made by North Korea’s armed forces.
    “It was appalling to see him shed crocodile tears after shooting our citizen to death,” he said.
    Former South Korean nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo, pointing to North Korea’s extensive testing of MLRS and short-range missiles over the past year, while sticking to a moratorium on ICBM testing, said South Korea must not get carried away by hope for peace.
    “All the media attention is on North Korea’s new strategic weapons but the most serious threat to our security is solid-fuel, short-range tactical missiles and MLRS that they’ve been madly testing over the past year,” Chun said.
    “North Korea showed how it has focused on developing its capability to attack the South while our people have been absorbed in a peace campaign,” he said.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Josh Smith, Robert Birsel)

10/12/2020 Exclusive: White House Moves Forward On Three Arms Sales To Taiwan – Sources by David Brunnstrom, Patricia Zengerle and Mike Stone
A general view of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is moving forward with three sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan, sending in recent days a notification of the deals to Congress for approval, three sources familiar with the situation said on Monday.
    The move in the run-up to the Nov. 3 U.S. election is likely to anger China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province which it has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary.
    In September, Reuters reported that as many as seven major weapons systems were making their way through the U.S. export process as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.
    Leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees were notified that three of the planned weapons sales had been approved by the U.S. State Department which oversees Foreign Military Sales, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    The informal notifications were for a truck-based rocket launcher made by Lockheed Martin Corp called a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), long-range air-to-ground missiles made by Boeing Co called SLAM-ER, and external sensor pods for F-16 jets that allow the real-time transmission of imagery and data from the aircraft back to ground stations.
    Notifications for the sale of other weapons systems, including large, sophisticated aerial drones, land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles and underwater mines, to deter amphibious landings, have yet to reach Capitol Hill, but these were expected soon, the sources said.
    A State Department spokesman said: “As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”
    The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees have had the right to review, and block, weapons sales under an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.
    Taiwan’s representative office in Washington said it had no comment, and China’s embassy did not immediately respond.
    News that new arms sales were moving forward comes after senior U.S. officials last week repeated calls for Taiwan to spend more on its own defense and to carry out military reforms to make clear to China the risks of attempting to invade.
    It comes at a time when China has significantly stepped up military activity near Taiwan and as U.S.-China relations have plunged to the lowest point in decades as the U.S. election nears.    President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, have both sought to appear tough in their approach to Beijing.
    Speaking on Wednesday, the U.S. national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, warned against any attempt to retake Taiwan by force, saying amphibious landings were notoriously difficult and there was a lot of ambiguity about how the United States would respond.
    The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it has not made clear whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack, something that would likely lead to a much broader conflict with Beijing.
    O’Brien said Taiwan needed to invest in capabilities including more coastal defense cruise missiles, naval mines, fast-attack craft, mobile artillery and advanced surveillance assets.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Patricia Zengerle, Mike Stone and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Franklin Paul and Matthew Lewis)

10/12/2020 U.S. Says ‘Quad’ Nations Ready To Work With Others For Free, Open Indo-Pacific by Sanjeev Miglani
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun speaks at a news briefing with South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister
Cho Sei-young after their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul, South Korea, July 08, 2020. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – An informal grouping bringing together India, Australia and Japan with the United States could be opened to other countries that support a “free and open Indo-Pacific region,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Beigun said on Monday.
    Washington has been pushing for closer collaboration among the members of the so-called Quad grouping as a bulwark against China’s growing regional influence.
    “The Quad is a partnership driven by shared interests, not binding obligations, and is not intended to be an exclusive grouping,” Beigun said in remarks prepared for delivery at an India-U.S. forum in Delhi, where he was beginning a three-day visit.    “Any country that seeks a free and open Indo-Pacific and is willing to take steps to ensure that, should be welcome to work with us.”
    The Quad partners could deepen engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and cooperate in defending freedom of the seas, he said.
    China has denounced the Quad as an attempt to contain its development and urged the United States to drop its “Cold War mentality.”
    Beigun is holding talks with Indian government leaders to lay the ground for an annual dialogue between the two countries’ top diplomats and defence leaders expected later this month.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper will likely fly to Delhi for the “2 plus 2” dialogue with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, a government source in Delhi said.
    U.S. calls for deeper engagement come at a time when India is locked in a military stand-off with China along their disputed Himalayan border.    At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash in June and the two sides have since mobilised thousands of troops in close proximity, raising fears of a wider conflict over a region where they fought a brief but bloody war in 1962.
    New Delhi, wary of further antagonising China, has been careful to avoid being drawn into U.S.-led alliances.    But Beigun said the United States had no plans to impinge on India’s strategic autonomy, but to forge a relationship based on shared interests.
    “We do not seek to change India’s traditions.    Rather we want to explore how to empower them and India’s ability to defend its own sovereignty and democracy and to advance Indian interests, across the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
    The United States has over the past decade or two emerged as one of India’s top arms suppliers, replacing Russia.
(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/12/2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire Strained By Recriminations, Fighting Reports by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
Unexploded cluster bomblets collected after recent shelling during the military conflict over the breakaway
region of Nagorno-Karabakh are seen on the outskirts of Stepanakert October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces accused each other on Monday of launching new attacks in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, increasing strains on a two-day-old humanitarian ceasefire intended to end heavy fighting over the mountain enclave.
    Russia, which brokered the ceasefire, appealed for both sides to respect it and Luxembourg reiterated European Union calls for Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan, to do more to secure an end to hostilities that have killed hundreds of people.
    The fighting, the deadliest over Nagorno-Karabakh in over 25 years, is being watched closely abroad partly because of its proximity to Azeri gas and oil pipelines and the risk of regional powers Turkey and Russia being dragged in. https://tmsnrt.rs/2SLS5ID
    Both Ankara and Moscow are under growing pressure to use their influence in the region to end the fighting.
    The ceasefire is meant to allow ethnic Armenian forces and Azerbaijan to swap prisoners and bodies of people killed in two weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but governed and populated by ethnic Armenians.
    But the ceasefire has frayed quickly. Azerbaijan said on Sunday it had launched air strikes against an Armenian regiment, following what it said was an Armenian rocket attack on an apartment building in the country’s second biggest city of Ganja.    Armenia denied carrying out such an attack.
    On Monday, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said Armenian forces had tried to attack its positions around the Aghdere-Aghdam and Fizuli-Jabrail regions, and were shelling territories in the Goranboy and Terter regions inside Azerbaijan.
    Nagorno-Karabakh said its forces had inflicted losses on Azeri forces and that large-scale military operations were continuing in the Hadrut area of the enclave.
    Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia, was monitoring the events and asked Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces to respect the ceasefire.
    Turkey said in a statement its defence minister, Hulusi Akar, had told Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu by telephone that Armenian forces must be removed from Azeri territory.
    Turkey supports Azerbaijan’s offensive to “retake its occupied lands,” the statement said, adding that Baku “would not wait another 30 years” for a solution.
(Graphic: Ethnic tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh, https://graphics.reuters.com/ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN/xklpyqoddpg/armenia-azerbaijan-2020_ethnic.jpg)
APPEALS TO TURKEY
    Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Armenia’s foreign minister, met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.    He accused Azerbaijan of acting to expand Turkey’s influence in the region and of using pro-Turkish mercenaries – charges both Ankara and Baku deny.
    Accusing Azerbaijan of ceasefire violations, Mnatsakanyan said: “We want the ceasefire, we want verification mechanisms on the ground, which will indicate the perpetrator, which will demonstrate the party that is not faithful to this ceasefire.”
    Speaking before a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, urged Turkey to do more to end the latest flare-up of the decades-old conflict.
    “Turkey has not called for a truce yet, and I believe they are completely wrong with this position,” Asselborn said.
    “I think the message from Luxembourg will be a call on Turkey, a NATO member, to help arrange a ceasefire quickly.”
    While mediation has for years been led by France, Russia and the United States, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev repeated calls for Turkey to be involved.
    “Even if many Western countries do not want to accept it, Turkey’s word is big, it’s fully independent,” he said.
    But Russia’s Lavrov said there was no plan to change the talks format to include Turkey.
    The fighting is the worst since a 1994 ceasefire ended a war over Nagorno-Karabakh that killed at least 30,000.
https://tmsnrt.rs/30GEXJd
    Azerbaijan said 41 Azeri civilians had been killed and 207 wounded since Sept. 27.    It has not disclosed information about military casualties.
    Nagorno-Karabakh said its military death toll since Sept 27 had reached 525, while at least 25 civilians had been killed.
(Graphic: Azeri energy pipelines, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/xegpblnympq/azerbaijan.PNG)
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Writing by Sujata Rao, Editing by Andrew Osborn, Timothy Heritage and Toby Chopra)

10/12/2020 Bangladesh Approves Death Penalty For Rape Amid Protests by Ruma Paul
FILE PHOTO: Members of a feminist group take part in an ongoing protest in front of the parliamentary building,
demanding justice for the alleged gang rape of a woman in Noakhali, southern district of Bangladesh, amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Dhaka, Bangladesh, October 10, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
    DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh’s cabinet on Monday approved the death penalty for rapists amid nationwide protests in the wake of a series of gang rapes and sexual assaults.
    Bangladesh has seen a surge of sexual crimes in recent years, with nearly 1,000 incidents reported between January and September, more than a fifth of them gang rapes, according to human rights group Ain-o-Salish Kendra.
    Experts, however, said tougher penalties would not be enough to tackle the problem and authorities needed to immediately address systemic problems in rape trials and the extremely low conviction rates.
    Rights activists blame the increasing number of assaults on a culture of impunity and protection of suspects by influential individuals for political reasons.
    The cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, approved the proposal to make the death penalty the highest punishment for rape, Law Minister Anisul Huq told Reuters.
    “The law needed to be amended quickly…(Cabinet) has decided an ordinance will be promulgated tomorrow, with the approval of the president, as the parliament is not holding sessions currently,” he said.
    The latest outpouring of national anger was sparked by a video of a group of men stripping and attacking a woman for almost half an hour in the southeastern district of Noakhali.
    An investigation by an autonomous state body, the National Human Rights Commission, found the woman in the video had been raped repeatedly and terrorised with weapons by one of the group over the last year.
    “No mercy to rapists” shouted protesters gathered in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere, hundreds of women and students among them.    Many carried placards bearing messages such as “Stop rape culture.”
    “Every day, newspapers carry fresh stories of sexual violence against women,” said Sahana Islam, a university student, who joined the protests.
    “I fear I am next.    I want death penalty for the rapists so that the rest of the inhuman creeps can learn what will happen to them if they ever dare to do it.”
    When survivors file a complaint for sexual assault in Bangladesh prosecution is very rare and takes years to complete, and the conviction rate in trials that do go to court is very low.
    In addition, many rapes go unreported because women fear being stigmatised.
    A 2013 survey conducted by the United Nations found that, among men in Bangladesh who admitted to committing rape, 88% of rural respondents and 95% of urban respondents said they faced no legal consequences.
(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Toby Chopra)

10/13/2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Truce Buckles As Both Sides Allege Violations by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova
Unexploded cluster bomblets collected after recent shelling during the military conflict over the breakaway
region of Nagorno-Karabakh are seen on the outskirts of Stepanakert October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Tuesday of violating a humanitarian ceasefire agreed three days ago to quell fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh that has claimed hundreds of lives in the past two weeks.
    Ethnic Armenian officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said their total military death toll was 542, up 17 from Monday when reports of fresh fighting drew appeals from Russia and European Union members to respect the truce.
    Azerbaijan said 42 Azeri civilians had been killed and 206 wounded since Sept. 27.    It has not disclosed military casualties.
    Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but governed and populated by ethnic Armenians.
    Saturday’s Russian-brokered ceasefire was aimed at allowing ethnic Armenian forces and Azerbaijan to swap prisoners and bodies of those killed in the deadliest fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh in more than 25 years. [nL8N2H105C].
    On Tuesday, the truce appeared to buckle further as Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said Armenian forces were shelling the Azeri territories of Goranboy, Terter and Aghdam, “grossly violating the humanitarian truce.”
    A Reuters television crew in Terter said the city centre was being shelled.
    “Azeri armed forces are not violating the humanitarian ceasefire,” defence ministry spokesman Vagif Dargiahly said.
    Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan denied the accusation. He said the Azeri side had resumed operations after an overnight lull, “supported by active artillery fire in the southern, northern, northeastern and eastern directions.”
Reuters could not independently verify those report of artillery fire.
    The conflict is being watched abroad because it is close to Azeri gas and oil pipelines to Europe, and Turkey and Russia risk being dragged in.    Russia has a defence pact with Armenia, while Turkey is allied with Azerbaijan.
    Turkey is not yet involved in the mediation which has for years been led by France, Russia and the United States.    Ankara backs Azerbaijan’s offensive to “retake its occupied lands.”
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi; Writing by Sujata Rao; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/13/2020 White House Moves Forward On Three Arms Sales To Taiwan: Sources by David Brunnstrom, Patricia Zengerle and Mike Stone
FILE PHOTO: U.S. military fires a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) during a military exercise with Philippine troops
called "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) in Capas, Tarlac in northern Philippines April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is moving forward with three sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan, sending in recent days a notification of the deals to Congress for approval, five sources said on Monday, while China threatened retaliation.
    The move in the run-up to the Nov. 3 U.S. election, first reported by Reuters, is likely to anger China, which considers Taiwan a wayward province that it has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary.
    Reuters broke the news in September that as many as seven major weapons systems were making their way through the U.S. export process as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.
    Leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees were notified that three of the planned weapons sales had been approved by the U.S. State Department which oversees foreign military sales, said the sources, who are familiar with the situation but declined to be identified.
    The informal notifications were for a truck-based rocket launcher made by Lockheed Martin Corp called a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), long-range air-to-ground missiles made by Boeing Co called SLAM-ER, and external sensor pods for F-16 jets that allow the real-time transmission of imagery and data from the aircraft back to ground stations.
    Notifications for the sale of other weapons systems, including large, sophisticated aerial drones, land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles and underwater mines, to deter amphibious landings, have yet to reach Capitol Hill, but these were expected soon, the sources said.
    A State Department spokesman said: “As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said U.S. arms sales to Taiwan severely damaged China’s sovereignty and security interests, urging Washington to clearly recognize the harm they caused and immediately cancel them.
    “China will make a legitimate and necessary response according to how the situation develops,” Zhao told reporters in Beijing, without elaborating.
CONGRESSIONAL BACKING FOR TAIWAN
    The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees have the right to review, and block, weapons sales under an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.
    Lawmakers, who are generally wary of what they perceive as Chinese aggression and supportive of Taiwan, were not expected to object to the Taiwan sales.
    Taiwan’s defense ministry said it would comment only when there was formal notification of any arms sale.    Foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said the government had not yet been formally notified.
    “China continues to use military provocation to undermine cross-strait and regional stability, highlighting the importance of Taiwan’s strengthening of self-defense capabilities,” Ou said.
    News that new arms sales were moving forward came after senior U.S. officials last week repeated calls for Taiwan to spend more on its own defense and to carry out military reforms to make clear to China the risks of attempting to invade.
    It comes at a time when China has significantly stepped up military activity near Taiwan and as U.S.-China relations have plunged to the lowest point in decades as the U.S. election nears.    President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, have both sought to appear tough in their approach to Beijing.
    Speaking on Wednesday, the U.S. national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, warned against any attempt to retake Taiwan by force, saying amphibious landings were notoriously difficult and there was a lot of ambiguity about how the United States would respond.
    The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it has not made clear whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack, something that would likely lead to a much broader conflict with Beijing.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Patricia Zengerle, Mike Stone and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Franklin Paul, Matthew Lewis and Jane Wardell)
[DON'T YOU JUST LOVE IT THAT THERE IS A THORN IN THE SIDE OF CHINA'S AGENDA AND IT COULD COME DOWN TO THE UNITED STATES TO TELL THEM TO STAND DOWN OR WE WILL GIVE THEM A REAMING FROM SENDING THE WUHAN VIRUS ONTO THE WORLD OR EVEN BETTER THAT GOD WILL LET THEM KNOW WHAT THE BIBLICAL REVELATION HAS IN STORE FOR THEM.].

10/13/2020 China, ASEAN Should Prevent “External Disruption” In South China Sea: Wang Yi
FILE PHOTO: China's State Councilor Wang Yi speaks at the Lanting Forum on "International Order and Global Governance in the
Post-COVID-19 Era", following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Beijing, China September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said on Tuesday that Beijing and members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) should work together to remove “external disruption” in the South China Sea. Wang, who is on a visit to Malaysia as part of a short Southeast Asian tour, did not elaborate.
    During a joint a news conference, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said disputes over the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully through regional dialogue.
    China, which has for years been locked in maritime disputes with other coastal states in the South China Sea, has in recent months held military exercises in disputed parts of the strategic waterway, while Washington has accused China of attempting to build a “maritime empire” in the area.
(Reporting by Mei Mei Chu and Liz Lee; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Martin Petty)

10/13/2020 FBI To Open Office With Cambodia Police Amid Frosty Ties
FILE PHOTO: FBI headquarters building is seen in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
    PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will set up an office at Cambodia’s national police headquarters to help track down American criminals, at a time when Washington is seeking to repair strained relations with a close ally of China.
    The office will serve to support Cambodian police in efforts to arrest American fugitives and to fight terrorism, police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said on Tuesday.
    “Before, we cooperated on a case-by-case basis and now we are having an office to work with the objective to work fast,” Chhay Kim Khoeun told Reuters.
    Chhay Kim Khoeun said he did not know about the timeframe for when the office would be established.
    In an email statement to Reuters, the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment on the FBI office but said the two institutions had an established relationship.
    “A joint FBI-Cambodian National Police task force established to fight crimes against children, money laundering, and financial crime is now operational.    Our law enforcement cooperation makes both our countries safer,” it said.
    An agreement was made last year to create the task force, which would also address organised crime, money laundering and locate international fugitives, the embassy said.
    Ties with the United States have been frosty in recent years, with Cambodia’s government angered by Washington’s criticism of the dissolution of the main opposition party and arrest of rival politicians and activists.
    Last week, the Pentagon expressed concern about the razing of a U.S.-funded Cambodian navy tactical headquarters, which Prime Minister Hun Sen said was for renovations.
    Cambodia has repeatedly denied reports there was a secret deal with China, its biggest economic and diplomatic ally, to place forces at the base.
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Martin Petty)

10/13/2020 Iran: UN Arms Embargo To Expire On Oct. 17 by OAN Newsroom
File – The Iranian flag flies in front of a UN building. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
    The Ayatollah regime in Iran said it’s looking forward to the expiration of a United Nations arms embargo later this month.    On Monday, Iranian officials said the UN Security Council ban on the import and export of weapons by the Islamic Republic will expire on October 17.
    Tehran also slammed the U.S. for its calls to extend the UN embargo by stating “it’s not going to happen.”    Iran agreed to cease its trade in conventional weapons and freeze its nuclear program under the 2015 nuclear deal in exchange for financial benefits.
    The Ayatollah regime now claims the expiration of the embargo will hurt the U.S.
    “It is a historic failure for the U.S. that could not push forward with its intentions in spite of applying deception and unlawful actions in a world that has become multilateral,” stated Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran.    “The Islamic Republic proved, once again, that America is not the super power it pretends it is.”
    Iran is also refusing to pay $1.4 billion to the family of former FBI agent Robert Levinson who disappeared in the country.    The regime claims Levinson had left Iran before his disappearance.

10/13/2020 Exclusive: White House Advances Drone And Missile Sales To Taiwan – Sources by Mike Stone, Patricia Zengerle and David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan's navy sailors take part in the commissioning ceremony of PFG-1112 Ming Chuan and PFG-1115 Feng Chia,
Perry-class guided missile frigates, at Kaohsiung's Zuoying naval base, Taiwan November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is moving forward with more sales of sophisticated military equipment to Taiwan, telling Congress on Tuesday that it will seek to sell Taipei MQ-9 drones and a coastal defensive missile system, sources familiar with the situation said.
    The possible sales follow three other notifications first reported by Reuters on Monday that drew China’s ire as the United States prepares for its Nov. 3 election.
    One of the eight sources said that in total the sales were valued at around $5 billion.    Very often figures for U.S. foreign military sales include costs for training, spares and fees making the values difficult to pinpoint.
    Reuters broke the news in September that as many as seven major weapons systems were making their way through the U.S. export process as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.
    The pre-notification to Congress for the General Atomics-made MQ-9 drones is the first after President Donald Trump’s administration moved ahead with its plan to sell more drones to more countries by reinterpreting an international arms control agreement called the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
    Tuesday’s other congressional pre-notification was for land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles, made by Boeing Co, to serve as coastal defense cruise missiles.    One of the sources said the approximately 100 cruise missiles that were notified to Capitol Hill would have a cost of about $2 billion.
    Representatives for the U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    A Taiwan government source acknowledged that “Taiwan has five weapon systems that are moving through the process.”
    The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees have the right to review, and block, weapons sales under an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.
    Leaders of the committees were notified that the planned weapons sales had been approved by the U.S. State Department which oversees foreign military sales, said the sources, who are familiar with the situation but declined to be identified.
    Reuters reported on Monday that informal notifications had already been sent to Congress for a truck-based rocket launcher made by Lockheed Martin Corp called a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), long-range air-to-ground missiles made by Boeing called SLAM-ER, and external sensor pods for F-16 jets that allow the real-time transmission of imagery and data from the aircraft back to ground stations.
    When asked about Tuesday’s tranche of congressional notifications the Chinese Embassy in Washington referred to an overnight statement from Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
    Zhao said U.S. arms sales to Taiwan severely damaged China’s sovereignty and security interests.    He urged Washington to clearly recognize the harm they caused and immediately cancel them, adding: “China will make a legitimate and necessary response according to how the situation develops.”
    China considers Taiwan a wayward province that it has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary, but Washington considers it an important democratic outpost and is required by law to provide it with the means to defend itself.
    In August, a Taiwanese official said the island was discussing acquiring capabilities including “underwater sea mines and other capabilities to deter amphibious landing, or immediate attack.”
    The Taiwanese source said Taiwan was not seeking to procure sea mines from the United States.
    People familiar with the talks with Taiwan have said that transfer of technology to Taipei for domestic production for various weapons capabilities has been under discussion.
    Washington has been eager to see Taiwan bolster its defensive capabilities in the face of increasingly aggressive Chinese moves toward the island.
    Speaking last week, the U.S. national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said Taiwan needed to turn itself into a porcupine to make to make clear to China the risks of attempting to invade.
    He said Taiwan needed to invest in capabilities including more coastal defense cruise missiles, naval mines, fast-attack craft, mobile artillery and advanced surveillance assets.
(Reporting by Mike Stone, Patricia Zengerle and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

10/14/2020 Humanitarian Crisis Feared As Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire Buckles by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova
Unexploded cluster bomblets collected after recent shelling during the military conflict over the breakaway region
of Nagorno-Karabakh are seen on the outskirts of Stepanakert October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Tuesday of violating a ceasefire agreed three days ago to quell fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, drawing warnings from international groups of a humanitarian crisis.
    The Russia-brokered truce is buckling despite mounting calls from world powers to halt the fighting, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo among those urging greater commitment to the ceasefire terms.
    Turkey and Armenia exchanged recriminations, each blaming the other for exacerbating the crisis around Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but governed and populated by ethnic Armenians.
    Earlier on Tuesday, a Reuters cameraman witnessed shelling in the Nagorno-Karabakh town of Martuni.    A Reuters television crew in Terter in Azerbaijan also said the city centre was being shelled.
    Azerbaijan accused Armenia of “grossly violating the humanitarian truce,” which was agreed on Saturday to allow the sides to swap prisoners and bodies of those killed.
    Defence Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargiahly said Armenia was shelling the Azeri territories of Goranboy and Aghdam, as well as Terter.    Azeri forces were not violating the truce, he added.
    Armenian Defence Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan denied the accusation.    She said Azerbaijan had resumed military operations “supported by active artillery fire in the southern, northern, northeastern and eastern directions.”
    The fighting, which erupted on Sept. 27, is the worst since a 1991-94 war over Nagorno-Karabakh that killed about 30,000 people.    It is being closely watched abroad because of fears Russia and Turkey could get sucked in.    Russia has a defence pact with Armenia, while Turkey is allied with Azerbaijan.
CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES
    Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Turkey of muscling its way into the South Caucasus region to further what he called its expansionist ambitions.    Turkey denies this.     “The problem is that Armenians in the South Caucasus are the last remaining obstacle on its path to implement that expansionist policy,” Pashinyan told Reuters.
    The “Minsk Group” – a committee set up by the OSCE security watchdog to help mediate in Nagorno-Karabakh – called on the Armenian and Azeri leaders to implement the ceasefire to prevent “catastrophic consequences for the region.”
    The 11-member group is led by the United States, Russia and France.    Turkey is also a member but not involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh talks, though it has said it wants to join them.
    Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told reporters that while ceasefire demands were “reasonable,” the international community should ask Armenia to withdraw from Azeri territory.
    “Sadly no such call is being made,” he said.
    Influential Turkish politician Devlet Bahceli, whose party supports President Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP in parliament, took a more belligerent tone, telling Azerbaijan to secure Nagorno-Karabakh by “hitting Armenia over the head over and over again.”
    Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, President Donald Trump’s Democratic rival in the Nov. 3 presidential election, expressed deep concern over the “collapse” of the ceasefire and accused the Trump administration of being “largely passive and disengaged.”
    “Rather than delegating the diplomacy to Moscow, the administration must get more involved, at the highest levels,” Biden said in a statement.
DEAD AND WOUNDED
    The death toll continues to rise.    Nagorno-Karabakh officials said 532 servicemen had been killed so far, up 7 from Monday.
    Azerbaijan has reported 42 Azeri civilian deaths and 206 wounded since Sept. 27. It has not disclosed military casualties.
    Martin Schuepp, Eurasia regional director for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said his organisation was trying to facilitate handovers of detainees or dead bodies, but the security situation hindered the efforts.
    With tens of thousands of people potentially needing help in coming months, the ICRC is appealing for another 9.2 million Swiss francs ($10.10 million) to fund humanitarian efforts.
    The conflict is also worsening the spread of COVID-19, World Health Organisation spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a United Nations briefing in Geneva.    New cases doubled over the past two weeks in Armenia and rose by 80% in Azerbaijan, he said.
($1 = 0.9106 Swiss francs)
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Riham Alkousaa in Berlin, Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Jonathan Spicer in Ankara; Trevor Hunnicutt and Matt Spetalnick in the U.S.; Writing by Sujata Rao; Editing by Giles Elgood, Timothy Heritage, William Maclean, Peter Graff and Leslie Adler)

10/14/2020 China Uses New Tactic In Campaign Against Taiwan With Spy Accusations by Ben Blanchard
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen makes a speech ahead of the light show at the Presidential Office
building for the National Day celebration in Taipei, Taiwan, October 6, 2020. REUTER/Ann Wang/File Photo
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – China has opened a new front in its pressure campaign against Taiwan with a series of spying allegations and confessions aired on state television, denounced on the democratic island as entrapment and another reason for people to fear visiting China.
    China views Taiwan as its sovereign territory and has stepped up a campaign to assert its claim, including sending fighter jets near the island.
    Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says the island will not provoke but will defend itself.
    Starting on Sunday evening, Chinese state television has been showing what it says are detained Taiwanese spies who have been operating in China, and confessing to their crimes.
    China, under its Thunder-2020 campaign, has cracked hundreds of cases orchestrated by Taiwan’s intelligence forces to “infiltrate and damage” and set up a network of spies, state television said.
    The Global Times, a widely read Chinese tabloid run by the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said on Wednesday the revelations were a warning to “Taiwan separatist forces.”
    Taiwan says China is framing and entrapping people, and that putting people on television to confess crimes before going to trial is a serious breach of proper legal process, something rights groups have long criticised Beijing for doing.
    Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said China was spreading slander and “creating terror.”
    Asked about Taiwan’s spying in China – both sides have long accused each other of running espionage networks – Su said Taiwan did not do that anymore and did not need to.
    “China is an authoritarian country, and always does this kind of infiltration and damage, so it thinks others do it too. They don’t know that Taiwan has been democratic and open for ages.”
    Taiwan has taken particular umbrage at what it says are obvious inaccuracies in some of China’s accusations, including that one of the accused spies previously worked for a former chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Cho Jung-tai.    Cho says he did not know the man.
    It has not been possible to reach any of the suspected spies for comment, though Zhu Fenglian, spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said they had been provided with lawyers and investigations carried out in accordance with the law.
    The DPP had “stepped up their collusion with external anti-China forces, frequently creating incidents,” she added, calling on it to stop “harming the overall interests of the Chinese people.”
    The arrests have raised concerns in Taiwan about safety of its people in China.
    “Think of the risks,” said Wang Ting-yu, a senior DPP lawmaker who sits on parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee.
    “Any Taiwanese person, no matter their political positions of beliefs or party background, is simply a tool for the Chinese Communists.”
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel)

10/14/2020 Thai Protest Brought Forward Over Disruption Fears by Matthew Tostevin and Patpicha Tanakasempipat
People flash the three-fingers salute as a royalists' bus passes near them during a Thai anti-government mass protest, on the 47th
anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, near the Democracy monument, in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai anti-government protesters hurriedly brought forward a demonstration in Bangkok on Wednesday, saying they feared confrontation with royalist groups planning to assemble nearby in support of the king.
    Three months of protests demanding a new constitution and the departure of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha – a former junta leader – have largely been peaceful, although demonstrators scuffled with police on Tuesday and 21 activists were arrested.
    Protesters have also sought to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and in a rare direct challenge, chanted “release our friends” at his passing motorcade on Tuesday.
    A couple of hundred protesters began assembling from 8 a.m. (0100 GMT) at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument on the anniversary of a 1973 uprising that brought down the then military government.    The protest had originally been scheduled for six hours later.
    “We are having the protest earlier because they are getting supporters to receive the royal motorcade to start a conflict with us,” protest leader and human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa told protesters.    “We are holding this protest peacefully.”
    The government made no immediate comment, but has said people have the right to protest.    The Palace has repeatedly declined to comment on the protests or the demands of protesters.
    Pro-royalist groups said they planned gatherings near the anti-government protest, raising fears of trouble in a country roiled by a decade of street violence between supporters and opponents of the establishment before a 2014 coup.
    So far pro-royalist demonstrations have been small, compared to the tens of thousands who joined the biggest anti-government demonstration in September.
    “We are here to fight for democracy,” said Romtum Cheyhert, 63, who joined the anti-government protest from the northern city of Chiang Mai.
    Among protesters’ demands are for curbs on the constitutional powers of the king and for him to transfer back the personal control he took of some army units and a palace fortune valued in the tens of billions of dollars.
    Royalist politician Warong Dechgitvigrom condemned the protesters in a Facebook post on Wednesday and called on the government to prosecute those he accused of intending to destroy the monarchy.
(Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Ed Davies)

10/14/2020 Azeri President Says Azerbaijan Continues Military Operation In Nagorno-Karabakh: IFAX
    BAKU (Reuters) – Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said on Wednesday that Azerbaijan was continuing a military operation to free territory in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
    The renewed fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh is the worst since a 1994 ceasefire ended a war over the breakaway region that killed at least 30,000.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/14/2020 Indonesia Islamic Groups, Students Join Movement To Scrap Jobs Law by Yuddy Cahaya Budiman and Agustinus Beo Da Costa
Indonesian Islamist groups take part in a protest against the new so-called omnibus law near
the National Monument (Monas) in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Wearing white Islamic garb and waving red and white Indonesian flags, more than 1,000 protesters from Islamic and student groups gathered in the world’s most populous Muslim nation on Tuesday to show discontent over a divisive new jobs law.
    Conservative Islamic groups are among the latest to join the volatile street demonstrations, during which police fired tear gas on Tuesday to try to break up crowds, as pressure mounts on the government to repeal a law they say undermines labour rights and environmental protections.
    The country’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, is among its opponents and says it favours conglomerates while “trampling” on the rights of working-class Indonesians.
    Hamdan, a 53-year-old teacher who goes by one name, said he would keep protesting until the law was repealed.
    “People can’t go out, some people can’t even eat and unemployment is still high,” he told Reuters in Jakarta.    “Even my son still can’t find a job.”
    Protests against the so-called omnibus law took place in multiple locations involving thousands of Indonesians last week, some of which saw streets blocked, tyres burned and rocks hurled, leading to more than 6,000 people being detained.
    “The bill will definitely affect myself, my job, my relatives, my friends and everything,” said engineer Rafi Zakaria, 30.
    “It doesn’t only affect labourers.    Our students here joined the protest because they’re concerned about their parents’ jobs.”
    The law, designed to reduce red tape and attract investors, has yet to be published and the unofficial versions circulating in the media and online have led to speculation and confusion.
    Deputy house speaker Azis Syamsyuddin told Reuters the law would be sent to the president and made public on Wednesday.
    The government is standing by the legislation and President Joko Widodo has blamed the public outcry on disinformation.    Indonesia’s defence minister has blamed the demonstrations on “foreign interference
    “There are those who do not want to see Indonesia as conducive to investors, and want to always benefit from that,” the ministry spokesperson, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, said, without elaborating.
(This story corrects name of deputy house speaker in paragraph 10 to Azis Syamsyuddin, not Achmad Baidowi)

10/14/2020 Thai Protesters Clash With Police, Call Out As King’s Motorcade Passes by Panu Wongcha-um, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Kay Johnson
A pro-democracy protester flashes a three-finger salute during a protest against government and monarchy
near the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Thailand October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Panu Wongcha-um
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Hundreds of Thai protesters scuffled with police and threw blue paint at them on Tuesday and, after 21 of them were arrested, chanted “release our friends!” as the royal motorcade of King Maha Vajiralongkorn swept past.
    Among those taken away were Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, a protest leader, and Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, a singer. People who were detained would be charged appropriately, police said.
    “The protesters may not have observed the law today so police had to act to bring order and didn’t act disproportionately,” government spokesperson Anucha Burapachai told Reuters.
    Such open dissent towards the monarchy has no recent precedent in Thailand, and came on the eve of the latest planned anti-government demonstrations.
    The protests, which have persisted for three months, present the biggest challenge in years to a political establishment dominated by the army and the palace.
    Protesters are calling for a new constitution and the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader.
    They have also called for curbs on the powers of the monarchy, breaking a longstanding taboo against criticising the royal family which many people still revere.
    The Royal Palace has given no response to requests for comment on the protests or demands for royal reform.
    In a sign of the monarch’s ongoing popularity among many Thais, the king and queen left the palace late on Tuesday, smiling broadly as they greeted thousands of cheering supporters who waited in the rain on the anniversary of his father’s death.
    Earlier in the day, hours before the royal motorcade was due to pass Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, protesters had pushed up against a police line and some threw blue paint.
    Police demolished a tent set up for the protest and dragged some demonstrators into police vehicles.
THREE-FINGERED SALUTE
    After the trouble, the royal motorcade passed by on the other side of the street.    Protesters raised their hands in the three-fingered salute of anti-government campaigners and demanded the release of those detained.
    “This is the ugliness of feudalism, where one person can do anything and the majority of the people have to accept it unconditionally,” Parit “Penguin” Chirawat, a student leader, said on Twitter.
    The top trending hashtag on the social media platform in Thailand, used more than 1.5 million times, insulted the king.
    Insults to the monarchy are punishable by up to 15 years in prison under Thailand’s lese majeste laws, but the prime minister said earlier this year that the king requested that they not be used for now.
    Protesters have said they do not seek the abolition of the monarchy, but to reduce the king’s powers under the constitution and to reverse an order to put the palace fortune and some army units under his control.
    “The monarchy has to be under the constitution, that is how it supposed to be,” said 21-year-old protester Waranya Siripanya.
    In the evening, the demonstrators moved to the police station where the detainees were being held, pressing against the gates to demand their release.
    Tuesday was a public holiday to mark four years since the death of the king’s widely respected father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for seven decades.
    Vajiralongkorn, who spends much of his time in Germany, made a rare visit to Thailand for the occasion.
    Thousands of royalists gathered to pay their respects, bearing the late king’s picture and flowers and wearing yellow shirts, the colour associated with him.
    Many royalists were critical of the protesters.
    “They may have been taught and told that the monarchy doesn’t have any value to the nation,” said Narongsak Poomsisa-ard, 67.    “But I want to remind them that our nation exists until today, because we have the strong institution.”
(Additional reporting by Prapan Chankaew, Jiraporn Kuhakan, Jorge Silva and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Tom Hogue and Mike Collett-White)

10/14/2020 Azerbaijan Warns Over Pipelines As Nagorno-Karabakh Tensions Rise by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova
FILE PHOTO: Men are seen among the ruins after recent shelling during the military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in Stepanakert October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – Azerbaijan accused Armenia on Wednesday of trying to attack its gas and oil pipelines and warned of a “severe” response as tensions rose sharply around a fraying ceasefire in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Armenia denied the claim and said Azeri forces were trying to seize control of the tiny territory, which is governed by ethnic Armenians, despite Saturday’s humanitarian ceasefire.
    Russia tried to silence the angry rhetoric and appealed to both sides to observe the ceasefire it brokered over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
    But Moscow and Turkey also exchanged recriminations over the fighting that has killed more than 600 people since Sept. 27, the majority of them Nagorno-Karabakh military personnel.
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Wednesday that Ankara wanted a permanent solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
    Putin expressed his concerns about the participation of Middle East fighters in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a claim denied both by Ankara and Baku.    Both leaders reaffirmed the importance of a Moscow-mediated ceasefire in the conflict, the Kremlin said.
    Fears are growing that the two big regional powers could be sucked into a conflict that is being fought close to Azeri pipelines which carry gas and oil to international markets. https://tmsnrt.rs/2SLS5ID
    “Armenia is trying to attack and take control of our pipelines,” Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster Haberturk.
    “If Armenia tries to take control of the pipelines there, I can say that the outcome will be severe for them.”
    Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan described the situation in the conflict area as quite hard and said Azerbaijan and Turkey did not want “to stop their aggression.”
    Azerbaijan was trying to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh, he said, using similar language to Azeri leaders who say Armenian forces are occupying the territory.
    Azerbaijan has more firepower than Armenia, and Turkish export data showed it bought $77.1 million worth of military equipment from Turkey last month before fighting began.    Turkey’s military exports to its ally have risen six-fold this year.
    Nagorno-Karabakh has acknowledged some setbacks in the fighting, which has raised fears of a humanitarian crisis, but says the situation is under control.
    “It is not too late to resolve the conflict peacefully, through negotiations,” Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan said.    “But if the enemy doesn’t want to, we are ready to fight to the end.”
NEW CEASEFIRE VIOLATIONS
    The fighting is the worst since a 1991-94 war in which about 30,000 people were killed. https://tmsnrt.rs/30GEXJd
    Aliyev said on Twitter that Azerbaijan had taken control of eight villages in the Fizuli and Khojavend regions, and Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said Azeri forces had destroyed Armenian missile systems before they could strike Azeri targets.
    Armenia’s defence ministry said a hospital in Nagorno-Karabakh had been targeted but Azerbaijan denied this.    Azerbaijan also denied an Azeri Su-25 fighter jet had been shot down and that it carried out a drone strike in Armenia which Yerevan said wounded a 14-year-old boy.
    Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia, criticised suggestions by Turkey and Azerbaijan that the conflict could be resolved militarily.    It wants the ceasefire to go into effect to allow the sides to swap prisoners and bodies of war dead.
    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it would be right to deploy Russian military observers on Nagorno-Karabakh’s line of contact, which separates the two sides, but that it was up to Azerbaijan and Armenia to decide.
    He also said a plan for Azerbaijan to be given control of certain areas around Nagorno-Karabakh should be brought to the negotiating table for discussion, but gave no details.
    Despite criticism from NATO allies of its stance in the conflict, Turkey reiterated its support for Azerbaijan.
    President Erdogan said mediation led by France, the United States and Russia was stalling and that Nagorno-Karabakh must be given back to Azerbaijan.
    The Azeri prosecutor’s office said 43 Azeri civilians had been killed and 214 wounded since Sept. 27 but Azerbaijan has not disclosed military casualties.    Nagorno-Karabakh says 532 of its military personnel have been killed plus 32 civilians.
(Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Nevzat Devranoglu in Ankara and by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Tom Balmforth, Anton Kolodyazhnyy and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; Writing by Margarita Antidze and Timothy Heritage, Editing by William Maclean, Catherine Evans and Alexandra Hudson)

10/14/2020 North Korea’s Kim Pushes For Major Construction In Typhoon-Hit Areas: KCNA by Sangmi Cha
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects reconstruction sites in an area hit by recent typhoons, in South Hamgyong Province,
North Korea in this undated photo supplied by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), October 14, 2020. KCNA via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited construction sites for new homes that are part of a “grandiose plan” to rebuild towns hit hard by typhoons and summer floods, state news media reported on Thursday.
    The visit was the latest by Kim to typhoon-hit areas of the country after he had promised this week to build at least 25,000 homes over the next five years as citizens begin an 80-day campaign to achieve economic goals.
    The state newspaper Rodong Sinmun featured Kim’s tour of newly built dwellings in the eastern areas of Sinpho City and Hongwon County on the front page on Thursday, displaying the leader smiling in front of lines of houses with red and cyan roofs and white walls.
    The houses were built by members of the military and the ruling Workers’ Party. “    He said that they built the houses flawlessly as well as professional builders, noting with great satisfaction that those houses are a crystal of the loyalty of Party members,” KCNA said.
    North Korea was hit by “disastrous meteorological phenomena” this summer with heavy rains and typhoons, bringing the second highest rainfall in the past 25 years.    The storms had paralysed the transportation system and destroyed thousands of houses.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Sam Holmes)

10/15/2020 Pentagon Prepares To Welcome Once-Banned Indonesian Minister, Despite Rights Concerns by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali
FILE PHOTO: Prabowo Subianto looks on before taking his oath as appointed Defense Minister during the inauguration
at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration will welcome Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto to the Pentagon on Friday after dropping a defacto ban on his entry into the country imposed over accusations of human rights abuses.
    Prabowo, a 68-year-old former special forces commander, has long been a controversial figure in Indonesia, accused of involvement with military crimes in places like East Timor that have earned him scorn among human rights advocates.
    But since being named as defense minister last year, Prabowo, who denies any wrongdoing, has also become a key figure as the Trump administration attempts to deepen defense ties with Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
    Of particular concern to Washington, Indonesia’s military is also being courted by Russia and China.
    A senior U.S. defense official strongly defended the decision to welcome Prabowo to the Pentagon, where he will meet Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
    “Minister Prabowo is the appointed minister of defense of the now twice duly-elected president of Indonesia, which is the third-largest democracy in the world,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    “He is our counterpart, of a very important partnership, and it is important that we engage with him and treat him as a partner.”
    Prabowo will receive official briefings elsewhere in the Washington D.C.-area on Thursday as Jakarta weighs a fighter jet purchase that has also attracted interest from Moscow.
    Amnesty International and other rights advocates condemned the decision by the U.S. State Department to grant him a visa, something it had denied in years past, including when Prabowo’s son graduated from Boston University.
    Prabowo told Reuters in 2012 he was refused a U.S. visa due to allegations that he had instigated riots that killed hundreds after the overthrow of Indonesia’s then-president Suharto in 1998.
    “The State Department’s recent decision to lift the ban on Prabowo Subianto is an abrupt, complete reversal of longstanding U.S. foreign policy,” said Amnesty International USA’s National Director of Advocacy and Government Relations, Joanne Lin, calling his visit “catastrophic for human rights in Indonesia.”
    Senator Patrick Leahy, author of a law that prohibits U.S. military aid to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity, condemned the Trump administration’s decision and said Prabowo was “ineligible to enter this country.”
    “By granting a visa to Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo, the President and Secretary of State have shown once again that for them ‘law and order’ is an empty slogan that ignores the importance of justice,” Leahy told Reuters.
    Prabowo enlisted in the military aged 19 and six years later joined Kopassus, the army special forces.    He led Team Mawar, or the ‘Rose Team,’ which is accused of kidnapping student activists who were involved in the movement to overthrow Suharto.    Thirteen activists from that time remain missing.
    Prabowo has consistently denied his involvement in any alleged human rights abuses, including in Jakarta, East Timor and also West Papua.
    Still, he has become an influential political player, who has repeatedly sought the presidency and could stand again in the coming years.
    The United States is expected to renew warnings to Jakarta against major arms purchases from Moscow, a refrain that comes up often with partners around the world. Purchasing Russian fighter jets could trigger U.S. sanctions under the U.S. Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), experts say.
    “We raise CAATSA risk in all of our conversations with the Ministry of Defense,” the U.S. official said.     Indonesia’s defense ministry declined comment on Prabowo’s trip.     On Jakarta’s wish-list is a “roadmap” to procuring the F-35 fighter jet, an Indonesian government official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding officials were not optimistic.
    “We don’t expect much to be honest,” the Indonesian official said.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali in Washington; Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Tom Allard in Jakarta; Editing by Stephen Coates)

10/15/2020 Explainer: What’s Behind Thailand’s Protests?
A message reading "Road for the People" written on Ratchadamnoen Road (or Road for the Royals), is pictured after a mass anti-government
protest, on the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok, Thailand October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s government banned gatherings of more than five people on Thursday in the face of three months of escalating demonstrations that have targeted King Maha Vajiralongkorn as well as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
HOW DID THE PROTESTS START?
    Anti-government protests emerged last year after courts banned the most vocal party opposing the government of former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha.
    After a pause during measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, protests resumed in mid-July – pushing for Prayuth’s removal, a new constitution and an end to the harassment of activists.
    Some protesters went further with a list of 10 demands to reform the monarchy – demands that were cheered by tens of thousands of people at a demonstration in September.
    Protesters say they do not seek to end the monarchy, only reform it, but conservatives are horrified by such attacks on an institution the constitution says is “enthroned in a position of revered worship.”
WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT DOING?
    Until Thursday, the government had said protests would be tolerated but that they must keep within the law.
    That changed suddenly after it accused jeering protesters of obstructing Queen Suthida’s motorcade and as thousands gathered at Government House to demand the removal of Prayuth.
    It imposed emergency measures banning gatherings of more than five people in Bangkok, forbid publication of news or online information that could harm national security and freed up police to arrest anyone linked to the protests.
    Soon after the measures were imposed, riot police cleared protesters from Government House and at least three protest leaders were arrested.
WHAT DOES THE PALACE SAY?
    The Royal Palace has made no comment on the protests and the demands for reform despite repeated requests.
WHO ARE THE PROTESTERS?
    Most are students and young people and there is no overall leader.
    Key groups include the Free Youth Movement, which was behind the first major protest in July and the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, a student group from Bangkok’s Thammasat University, which has championed calls for monarchy reform.
    Then there is the Bad Student movement of high schoolers, which also seeks education reform.
    Most protest leaders are in their 20s although one of the most prominent figures, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, is 36.
WHAT ROYAL REFORMS DO THE PROTESTERS WANT?
    Protesters want to reverse a 2017 increase in the king’s constitutional powers, made the year after he succeeded his widely revered late father King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
    Pro-democracy activists say Thailand is backtracking on the constitutional monarchy established when absolute royal rule ended in 1932. They say the monarchy is too close to the army and argue that this has undermined democracy.
    Protesters also seek the scrapping of lese majeste laws against insulting the king.    They want the king to relinquish the personal control he took over a palace fortune estimated in the tens of billions of dollars, and some units of the army.
WHY ELSE ARE THEY UNHAPPY?
    Protesters complain that the king endorsed Prayuth’s premiership after elections last year that opposition figures say were engineered to keep his hands on power.    Prayuth, who as army chief led a 2014 coup, says the election was fair.
    Protesters have voiced anger that the king spends much of his time in Europe.
    They have also challenged the spending of the Palace and lifestyle of the king, who has been married four times and last year took a royal consort.
WHAT DO THE LESE MAJESTE LAWS MEAN?
    The monarchy is protected by Section 112 of the Penal Code, which says whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent shall be jailed for three to 15 years.
    In June, Prayuth said the law was no longer being applied because of “His Majesty’s mercy.”    The Royal Palace has never commented on this.
    Rights groups say opponents of the government – including more than a dozen of the protest leaders – have recently been charged under other laws such as those against sedition and computer crimes.
    The government has said it does not target opponents but it is the responsibility of police to uphold the law.
(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

10/15/2020 Thailand Bans Protests As Challenge To Establishment Escalates by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Jiraporn Kuhakan
Pro-democracy demonstrators gather outside the Government House during a Thai anti-government mass protest, on the
47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok, Thailand October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s government banned protests and police arrested at least three protest leaders on Thursday in the face of escalating demonstrations targeting King Maha Vajiralongkorn as well as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader.
    Within 30 minutes of emergency orders, justified partly on the grounds of disturbing a royal motorcade, riot police drove away protesters who had camped outside Prayuth’s offices to demand his removal and a new constitution.
    “The situation right now is tantamount to a coup,” said Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, one of the few protest leaders still free.
    Police said they had arrested more than 20 people for refusing to cooperate with officers clearing the protest from the prime minister’s office.    Among those arrested were two of the most vocal critics of the monarchy. Another was picked up later.
    Three months of protests have been largely peaceful, as was a march by tens of thousands of people on Wednesday.    But in one incident, police pushed jeering protesters away from a motorcade carrying Queen Suthida.
    That was used as a reason for the emergency measures that include a ban on gatherings of five or more people.    Publishing news or online information that “could create fear” or “affect national security” was also forbidden.
    “It is extremely necessary to introduce an urgent measure to end this situation effectively and promptly to maintain peace and order,” the government said in the order.
    Other reasons for the emergency measures were damage to the economy from protests and the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus, of which only one locally transmitted case has been reported in more than four months.
‘BREAKING POINT’
    “What was done today is pushing Thailand to a breaking point,” said opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
    “The government must release the protesters and end the emergency decree.”
    Police said they had arrested protest leaders Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and rights lawyer Arnon Nampa.    Arnon said on Facebook he was being forced to board a helicopter to the northern city of Chiang Mai, where he faces sedition charges over a speech in August.
    Pictures on social media later showed student leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul being taken away in a wheelchair as she gave the three-finger salute of pro-democracy campaigners.
She was arrested shortly after she had urged people to take part in a protest planned for 4 p.m. (0900 GMT) despite the emergency order. Other protesters said they still planned to go ahead.
    “We haven’t been able to restore a true democracy yet,” said 54-year-old Sun Pathong, a veteran of a decade of anti-establishment protests and counter protests before Prayuth took power in a 2014 coup.
    “I’ll be back.    We have to continue the fight even if we risk our lives.”
    The protest movement aims to remove Prayuth, saying he manipulated an election last year to keep hold of power.    He says the election was fair.
    Those marching on the streets also want a new constitution and have called for a reduction in the powers of the king.    They want his role to be clearly subject to the constitution and they seek the reversal of orders that gave him control of the palace fortune and some army units.
    Criticism of the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under lese majeste laws, though Prayuth said earlier this year the king had asked that they not be enforced for now.
    “The clearance of the assembly (protesters) was very reasonable because the protesters apparently harassed the queen,” royalist politician Warong Dechgitvigrom commented on Facebook.
(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

10/15/2020 Malaysia’s Anwar Summoned Over List Of Backers For PM Bid - Police
FILE PHOTO: Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng
    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian police on Thursday said they had summoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to assist investigations into a viral list of federal lawmakers allegedly backing his bid to claim the premiership.
    Anwar on Tuesday met with King Al-Sultan Abdullah in a bid to prove he has a “convincing” parliamentary majority to form a new government.
    Anwar had been asked to give a statement on Friday over complaints filed with the police about a list of 121 lawmakers said to be backing his bid for the premiership, which had gone viral on social media, criminal investigation department director Huzir Mohamed said in a statement.
    “To date, a total of 113 police reports have been received,” Huzir said of the complaints.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Ed Davies)

10/15/2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire Hopes Sink As Warring Sides Bicker And Fight by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
A wounded ethnic Armenian soldier lies on a bed in a hospital, which, according to the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, was damaged during the shelling by Azeri armed forces,
in the fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in Martakert October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Hopes of a humanitarian ceasefire ending fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh sank on Thursday as the death toll mounted and Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of launching new attacks.
    Azerbaijan’s president said his country’s armed forces would take control of all regions surrounding the breakaway mountain territory if Armenia continued to “act negatively.”
    Armenia accused Azerbaijan’s ally, Turkey, of not allowing aircraft carrying emergency aid to enter its airspace despite fears of a humanitarian disaster.
    The ceasefire brokered by Russia last Saturday was intended to let the sides swap detainees and bodies of those killed.    But it has had little impact on the fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
(Graphic: Ethnic tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh, https://graphics.reuters.com/ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN/xklpyqoddpg/armenia-azerbaijan-2020_ethnic.jpg)
    Several hundred people have been killed in the deadliest flare-up of the decades-old conflict since a 1990s war over Nagorno-Karabakh killed about 30,000 people.
    The ceasefire’s failure to end the fighting has stoked fears about the security of pipelines in Azerbaijan that carry natural gas and oil to international markets, and raised concerns that Turkey or Russia could be drawn into a wider conflict.
    Aliyev said the peace process could begin only if Turkey were included in mediation talks, long driven by Russia, France and the United States.
    “Turkey plays a role here and that is Turkey’s right.    It has been like that historically,” Aliyev told Turkish broadcaster NTV.
    He said he did not advocate a military solution but Azeri forces could take all of Nagorno-Karabakh’s five major regions if Armenia did not set out a specific timeline to withdraw from the area.    Around 40 settlements had already “been liberated from the occupiers,” Aliyev added.
    Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said his country was ready to implement ceasefire agreements but self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke away from Azeri control as the Soviet Union collapsed, was a “red line” that could not be crossed.
    The Russian and Turkish foreign ministers agreed by phone that a peaceful resolution was the only option, Russian news agency RIA reported.
MOUNTING DEATH TOLL
    The authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said 604 of the territory’s defence personnel had been killed since Sept. 27.
    Azerbaijan had on Wednesday put its civilian death toll at 43 and four more were killed and three wounded at a funeral in its Terter region when an artillery shell fell on a cemetery, the Azeri prosecutor-general’s office said.
    It said two civilians had also been wounded in shelling of the Aghdam area.    Azerbaijan does not disclose military casualties.
    The Armenian prosecutor-general’s office said Azeri drones had killed two soldiers in the Vardenis region of Armenia on Wednesday, raising the Armenian military death toll so far to five.    They were not involved in military action, it said.
    Reuters could not independently verify the reports but a Reuters television crew witnessed shelling of Stepanakert, the main city in Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Data this week showed Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan have risen six-fold this year.    Russia has a defence pact with Armenia.
(Graphic: Turkey’s arms exports to Azerbaijan surge, https://graphics.reuters.com/ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN/TURKEY-ARMS/oakvenzyxpr/chart.png)
    The fighting, coming on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, could leave tens of thousands of people in need of aid over coming months, according to international organisations.
    Zareh Sinanyan, Armenian High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, said the delivery of 100 tonnes of aid from the United States was being delayed as Turkey had prohibited Armenia-bound humanitarian aid flights over its airspace.
    Armenia’s civil aviation committee was told on Wednesday the Qatar Airways flight from Los Angeles was cancelled but gave no reasons, said the committee’s head, Tatevik Revazyan.
    Turkey’s foreign ministry, which handles airspace issues, was not immediately available to comment.
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi; Tuvan Gumrukcu and Jonathan Spicer in Ankara; Polina Ivanova in Moscow; Writing by Sujata Rao; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

10/15/2020 ‘I Want Freedom’: Thais Mass To Defy Protest Ban by Patpicha Tanakasempipat
FILE PHOTO: Pro-democracy protesters show the three-finger salute as they gather demanding the government to resign
and to release detained leaders in Bangkok, Thailand October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa/File Photo
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – From shops, offices and schools they spilled onto a Bangkok street in their tens of thousands, voicing shock and anger and above all defiance.
    Thailand’s government had announced emergency measures to ban gatherings of five or more people to try to end three months of protests.    The response was one of the biggest demonstrations so far, in the heart of the capital.
    “I’m not afraid.    Emergency or not, I have no freedom,” said 26-year-old illustrator Thanatpohn Dejkunchorn, who left work early to attend the protest with friends.    “I want freedom to exist in this country.    I want it to be free from this vicious cycle.”
    Protests have built since mid-July in the biggest challenge in years to the political establishment – seeking the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader, and to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
    “We have to create understanding with the protesters,” government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri told Reuters, complaining that protest leaders were not giving protesters “complete information.”
    Police said they would arrest all protesters, though they did not explain how they would charge tens of thousands of people.
    The Royal Palace has declined all comment on the protesters or their demands.
    Until Wednesday, the government had largely allowed demonstrations to happen, while making no sign of meeting protesters’ demands.
    But that changed after an incident in which protesters jeered Queen Suthida’s motorcade as she and the king were paying a rare visit from Europe, where they spend most of their time.
    The government cited that as well as the risks to national security and the economy from protests and the danger of spreading coronavirus as reasons for imposing emergency measures.
    The government then launched a crackdown, sweeping away a camp set up outside Prayuth’s office and arresting three protest leaders – among around 40 arrests in the past week.
EXCESSIVE AND UNNECESSARY POWER
    “It’s obvious that the state wants to exercise excessive and unnecessary power on people,” said 22-year-old student Pattanun Arunpreechawat, who joined Thursday’s protest after studies.
    Protesters want to oust Prayuth, who first took power in a 2014 coup, saying he engineered election rules last year to keep his position – an accusation he denies.    Breaking a longstanding taboo, protesters have also challenged the monarchy – saying it has helped entrench decades of military influence.
    They gathered in the shadow of upmarket shopping malls and shiny tower blocks that are home to multinationals and other businesses in Southeast Asia’s second biggest economy.
    But the Ratchaprasong Intersection also has a historic resonance for protesters.    In 2010, it was the scene of bloodshed as security forces cracked down on Red Shirts who battled pro-establishment Yellow Shirts during a decade of turmoil.
    “I’m not afraid.    I’ve been chased by guns,” said beef noodle seller Thawat Kijkunasatien, 57, a veteran of the bloody crackdown a decade ago and another in 1992.
    “Wherever the kids go, I go,” he said at the protest while sipping a can of beer.
    One characteristic of the latest Thai protests has been the extent to which they are led by students and other young people.    Most protest leaders are in their 20s, but an even younger generation is following.
    From giving the three-finger salute of protest when the national anthem plays at school to tying white ribbons in their hair and on school bags as symbols of protest, high school students have rallied to the campaign.
    Many left school to join Thursday’s protest – among them 18-year-old Tan, who came along after finishing school exams.    He declined to give his full name for fear of reprisals.
    “I make sure I’m prepared for exams before I go to protests.    I have to give importance to both things,” he said.    “We can’t let it go on like this, or it will never end.”
(Additional reporting by Matthew Tostevin and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Toby Chopra)

10/16/2020 Thai PM Vows To Stay On As Protesters Defy His Ban by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat
FILE PHOTO: A person shows the three-finger salut as pro-democracy protesters gather demanding the government to resign
and to release detained leaders in Bangkok, Thailand October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Friday he was not quitting after tens of thousands of anti-government protesters defied a ban on demonstrations and he warned them not to persist.
    The ban on gatherings of more than five people was imposed early on Thursday after nearly three months of protests that have called for a reduction in the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy as well as the removal of Prayuth.
    Protesters defied the ban and staged one of the biggest demonstrations in Bangkok on Thursday evening.
    “I’m not quitting,” Prayuth told reporters after an emergency cabinet meeting.
    “The government must use the emergency decree.    We have to proceed because the situation became violent … It is being used for 30 days, or less if the situation eases.”
    He warned people not to violate the emergency measures, saying: “Just wait and see … If you do wrong, we will use the law.”
    Protesters seek the removal of Prayuth, who first took power in a 2014 coup, saying that he engineered last year’s election to keep hold of power.    He says the election was fair.
    Protesters also want a new constitution, to replace on drafted under military rule.
    Calls have also built for reforms to the monarchy, which is accused by protesters of helping to entrench decades of military influence in politics.
    Protests have been largely peaceful.
    The only specific incident cited by the government for the imposition of emergency measures was one in which Queen Suthida’s motorcade was jeered by protesters, but it also said protests were damaging the economy and national security.
    Police said on Friday that two men would be charged with attempted violence against the queen, which carries a possible death sentence.
    Protesters have denounced the emergency measures and the arrest of some 40 protesters in the past week and are planning another demonstration at 5 p.m. (1000 GMT) in Bangkok on Friday.
    Parliamentary opposition parties also condemned the emergency measures.
    “Pheu Thai Party calls on General Prayuth Chan-ocha and the state officials to lift the emergency decree and to stop intimidating the people in all manners and to release those who were arrested immediately,” said the party, which has the most seats in parliament.
(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

10/16/2020 Malaysia’s King Urges Politicians To End Uncertainty Amid Power Struggle
FILE PHOTO: Malaysia's King, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, inspects an honour guard during the
62nd Merdeka Day (Independence Day) celebrations in Putrajaya, Malaysia, August 31, 2019.ÊREUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo
    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah on Friday called on politicians not to drag the country through more political uncertainty and urged them to resolve issues through negotiations and the constitutional process.
    The king’s comments come amid a power struggle over the premiership between Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, just seven months after another wrangle led to Muhyiddin forming the government.
    Anwar met the king this week to prove he has a majority to form a government with the help of defectors from the current administration.    But further meetings at the palace were cancelled due to movement restrictions to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
    The latest political struggles come as Malaysia grapples with an economy battered by the coronavirus and a new surge in infections.
    In a statement, the palace advised lawmakers to display maturity in politics and to understand the concerns of the public.
    “Regarding the latest developments in the country’s political situation, His Majesty advised the people, especially politicians, to come together to ensure that the country is never again dragged into political uncertainty while we are all still faced with various problems and a difficult future due to the threat of the COVID-19 epidemic,” the palace said.
    He also urged them to resolve problems through negotiations and legal processes enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
    The king plays a largely ceremonial role but he can appoint a prime minister who in his view is likely to command a majority.    New governments are usually elected in Malaysia but the palace plays a role in certain instances.
    The king appointed Muhyiddin as prime minister this year in one such case after the unexpected resignation of Mahathir Mohamad in February, whose government collapsed due to infighting.
(Reporting by Liz Lee and Joseph Sipalan; writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Ed Davies)

10/16/2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Says Death Toll Among Its Military Rises To 633 Since Start Of Conflict
A graveyard hit during the fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh is seen in the city of Terter, Azerbaijan October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    YEREVAN (Reuters) – The defence ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh region said on Friday it had recorded another 29 casualties among its military, pushing the military death toll to 633 since fighting with Azeri forces erupted on Sept. 27.
    The fighting has surged to its worst level since the 1990s, when some 30,000 people were killed.
(Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/16/2020 With Eye On China, Japan’s Suga Seeks Tighter Ties With Vietnam, Indonesia by Linda Sieg
FILE PHOTO: Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga poses for a picture following a press conference at LDP
(Liberal Democratic Party) headquarters, in Tokyo, Japan September 14, 2020. Nicolas Datiche/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s new leader will aim to beef up security ties when he visits Vietnam and Indonesia next week amid concerns about Beijing’s growing assertiveness, but he is likely to steer clear of the harsh anti-China rhetoric used by U.S. counterparts.
    Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose resume is scant on diplomatic experience, will follow in predecessor Shinzo Abe’s footsteps by making the two Southeast Asian nations the destination for his first overseas trip since taking office in September.
    “I think it is important to show … we put more emphasis and importance on that region and we are interested in the security situation, especially in the South China Sea,” said former diplomat Kunihiko Miyake, a special advisor to Suga.
    Suga will visit Vietnam, chair of the 10-member ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and Indonesia, its biggest economy, on a four-day trip from Sunday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato announced on Friday.
    Japan must balance its deep economic ties with China with security concerns, including Beijing’s push to assert claims over disputed East China Sea isles [L4N2H62LS].
    Abe oversaw an improvement in ties but some ruling party MPs want a tougher stance.
    ASEAN members, many of which have territorial feuds with China in vital South China Sea waterways, are wary of alienating a big economic partner and reluctant to become entrapped in an intense confrontation between the United States and China.     Scott Harold, associate director at the Rand Corporation’s Center for Asia-Pacific Policy, said Japan’s approach is to be firm, calm and advance its interests without asking countries to explicitly push back against China.
    Beefing up defence cooperation will be a “key point” of Suga’s trip to Vietnam following last week’s port call of three Japanese vessels at the country’s Cam Ranh naval base, said Ha Hoang Hop of the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
    China claims swathes of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone as well as the Paracel and Spratly Islands while Indonesia has been angered by Chinese coast guard intrusions into its exclusive economic zone off its Natuna Islands.
    Japan plans to sign an agreement with Vietnam to allow it to export defence equipment and technology to the country, the Nikkei newspaper reported this week.    A Japanese official said Japan was talking about enhancing defense cooperation with both Hanoi and Jakarta but could not comment on the outcomes.
    Suga’s trip follows last week’s Tokyo meeting of the “Quad,” an informal grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the United States, which Washington sees as a bulwark against China.
    Beijing has denounced the Quad as a “mini-NATO” meant to contain China.
    Hop said Vietnam could endorse the Quad as the group becomes more inclusive and as Beijing becomes more aggressive in South China Sea. Indonesia, however, is wary.
    “Indonesia, which puts a high primacy on ASEAN’s centrality, is going to be very ambivalent about the Quad because it undermines that whole principle … They are unlikely to jump on the quad bandwagon,” said Euan Graham at the Singapore-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
    Suga’s visit also coincides with Japan’s efforts to diversify its supply chains and reduce reliance on China by bringing production home or locating more in Southeast Asia.
    He will likely announce an expansion of Japan’s subsidies for production in Southeast Asia on his trip, the Nikkei said.
    Vietnam is a popular choice for Japanese firms.    Half of the 30 Japanese firms that took advantage of a 23.5 billion yen ($223.28 million) government scheme to diversify supply chains in Southeast Asia targeted Vietnam, which has aggressively courted Japanese investment.
    Only one opted for Indonesia, where Japanese firms complain about a sometimes arbitrary regulatory environment, prompting Tokyo to call for improvements.
($1 = 105.2500 yen)
(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo; Khanh Vu in Hanoi and Tom Allard in Jakarta; Editing by Sam Holmes)

10/16/2020 ‘Something Close’ To Genocide In China’s Xinjiang, Says U.S. Security Adviser by by David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: National Security adviser Robert O'Brien speaks during a press briefing
at the White House in Washington, US, September 4, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. national security adviser said on Friday that China was perpetrating “something close to” a genocide with its treatment of Muslims in its Xinjiang region.
    “If not a genocide, something close to it going on in Xinjiang,” Robert O’Brien told an online event hosted by the Aspen Institute, while highlighting other Chinese crackdowns including one on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
    The United States has denounced China’s treatment of Uighur and other minority Muslims in Xinjiang and imposed sanctions on officials it blames for abuses.    It has not, though, so far termed Beijing’s actions genocide, a designation that would have significant legal implications and require stronger action against China.
    The United Nations estimates that more than a million Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang and activists say crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place there.    China has denied any abuses and says its camps in the region provide vocational training and help fight extremism.
    O’Brien referred to seizures by U.S. customs of “massive numbers” of hair products made with human hair from Xinjiang.
    “The Chinese are literally shaving the heads of Uighur women and making hair products and sending them to the United States,” he said.
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in June it had detained a shipment originating in Xinjiang of hair products and accessories suspected of being forced-labor products made with human hair.
    In June, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labeled as “shocking” and “disturbing” reports that China was using forced sterilization, forced abortion and coercive family planning against Muslims in Xinjiang.
    He said last month Washington was considering the language it would use to describe what is happening in the region but added: “When the United States speaks about crimes against humanity or genocide … we’ve got to be very careful and very precise because it carries an enormous weight.”
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

10/16/2020 Taiwan Should Fortify Itself Against Future Chinese Invasion: White House Adviser by Jonathan Landay
FILE PHOTO: National Security adviser Robert O'Brien speaks during a press briefing
at the White House in Washington, US, September 4, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – While China probably is not ready to invade Taiwan for now, the island needs to “fortify itself” against a future attack or any bid to isolate it through nonmilitary means, such as an embargo, the White House national security adviser said on Friday.
    “I think Taiwan needs to start looking at some asymmetric and anti-access area denial strategies,” Robert O’Brien told an online Aspen Institute forum.    “And really fortify itself in a manner that would deter the Chinese from any sort of amphibious invasion or even a gray zone operation against them.”
    He described a gray zone operation as one that would involve isolating Taiwan by economic measures or some kind of embargo.
    Rising tensions over Taiwan have led some analysts to speculate China might be tempted to take advantage of a possibly chaotic result of the hotly contested U.S. election to make good on a long-standing vow to reunite the island with the mainland, by force if necessary.
    Asked if he was concerned that China could launch an amphibious invasion of Taiwan or employ nonmilitary means to subdue the island, O’Brien said he did not think “the Chinese probably at this point want or likely are prepared for an amphibious landing.”
    “It would be a hard operation for the Chinese to do” and Beijing would have to consider how the United States would respond, he said.    “If we got involved, that can make that a very dangerous effort for the Chinese to engage in.”
    China could use its massive missile force to “annihilate” Taiwan, “but I don’t know what they would gain from that,” he said.
    The “entire free world” and most of the Asia-Pacific region would be “repelled” if China employed an embargo or other “gray zone” methods to isolate Taiwan and the country would end up isolating itself internationally, he said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay in Washington; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)

10/16/2020 Pakistan Opposition Starts Countrywide Protests To Oust Government by Mubasher Bukhari
Supporters of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of political opposition parties, gesture as they head to attend
an anti-government protest rally in Gujranwala, Pakistan October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Salahuddin NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
    LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – Supporters of Pakistan opposition parties were converging on a stadium in the city of Gujwanwala on Friday to begin a countrywide protest campaign to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan, who they accuse of being installed by the military in a rigged 2018 election.
    Nine major opposition parties formed a joint platform called the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) last month to begin a nationwide agitation against the government.
    Khan, who came to power on an anti-graft platform and denies the army helped him win, said on Friday he wasn’t afraid of the opposition’s campaign, which was aimed at blackmailing him to drop corruption cases against their leaders.
    “We have come out for the supremacy of the law,” said Maryam Nawaz, the daughter and political heir of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, speaking from atop an SUV that was showered with rose petals as she left for Gujwanwala from nearby Lahore.
    “Our struggle is against injustice, unemployment and all-time price hikes.”
    Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is the main opposition party.
    Sharif, a long-standing critic of the military, was sacked by the Supreme Court in 2017 on corruption charges and left for London last November for medical treatment.    He blames generals and judges for what he says were trumped up charges.
    Pakistan’s powerful military has repeatedly denied meddling in politics.
    The protest campaign comes at a time when Pakistan is experiencing an economic crisis, with inflation touching double digits and negative growth.    The next general election is scheduled for 2023.
    “Go Imran go.    Your time is up!” shouted tens of thousands of the opposition supporters gathered at the Gujwanwala stadium hours before the leaders arrived.
    Bilawal Bhutto, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who heads her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and a religious leader, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, were leading separate rallies to join the main gathering.
    “The time has come for the puppet government to go,” said Bhutto.
(Writing by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/17/2020 Azerbaijan And Armenia Allege Truce Violations, Accuse Each Other In Shelling by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
Search and rescue teams work on the blast site hit by a rocket during the fighting over the breakaway
region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan October 17, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azerbaijan and Armenia accused each other on Saturday of fresh attacks in violation of a week-old Russian-brokered truce that has failed to halt the worst fighting in the South Caucasus since the 1990s.
    Baku said 13 civilians were killed and more than 50 wounded in the city of Ganja by an Armenian missile attack, while Yerevan accused Azerbaijan of continued shelling.
    The fighting is the worst in the region since Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces went to war in the 1990s over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain territory that is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
    The Azeri Prosecutor General’s office said a residential area in Ganja, the country’s second-largest city and miles away from Nagorno-    Karabakh, was shelled by missile strikes and around 20 apartment buildings had been hit.    Armenia denied the claim.
    Azeri President Ilham Aliyev accused Armenia of committing a war crime by shelling Ganja.
    “They will be held responsible for that … If the international community does not punish Armenia, we will do it,” he said.
    Aliyev said the Azeri army has completely taken over two regions previously held by separatists, Fizuli and Jabrail.
    “We are dominating the battlefield,” he said, adding that Azeri armed forces never targeted civilian settlements.
    Aliyev also questioned Armenia’s ability to keep replacing military hardware destroyed in battles, a thinly veiled jab at Yerevan’s ally Moscow.
    He reiterated his stance that Baku would only stop its offensive once Armenia withdraws from Nagorno-Karabakh.
    In Ganja, rescuers worked at the scene on Saturday morning, picking through rubble, a Reuters photographer said.    Some houses had been almost levelled.    An excavator was clearing the debris.
    “We have been living in fear for days … We are suffering a lot.    We would rather die.    I wish we were dead but our children would survive,” one resident of the city, 58-year-old Emina Aliyeva, told reporters.
    The Armenian defence ministry denied the Azeri claim on shelling cities in Azerbaijan and accused Baku of continuing to shell populated areas inside Nagorno-Karabakh, including Stepanakert, the region’s biggest city.
    Three civilians were wounded as a result of Azeri fire, the Armenian foreign ministry said.
    A Reuters cameraman in Stepanakert said he had heard several explosions on Friday night and in the early hours of the morning.
    Armenia also said several Azeri drones flew over settlements in Armenia, attacked military installations and damaged the civilian infrastructure.
    Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called attacks “an attempted genocide of the Armenian people.”
    “We must defend ourselves, like any nation that is threatened with extermination,” he told the French newspaper Liberation.
    Baku said on Saturday that 60 Azeri civilians had been killed and 270 wounded since the fighting flared on Sept. 27. Azerbaijan has not disclosed military casualties.
    Nagorno-Karabakh says 633 of its military personnel have been killed, and 34 civilians.
(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova in Baku and Nvard Hovhannisyan in Yerevan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, William Mallard and Frances Kerry)

10/17/2020 Hong Kong Activist Grandma Wong Says Kept Back In Shenzhen For 14 Months
Alexandra Wong, 64, a pro-democracy activist, attends a news conference after Chinese authorities kept her in custody
for a month and a half, across the border in Shenzhen, in Hong Kong, China October 17, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Hong Kong protester dubbed “Grandma Wong” said on Saturday that Chinese authorities kept her in custody for a month and a half across the border in Shenzhen, where she allegedly suffered mental abuse, and then prevented from coming back for over a year.
    Grey-haired and bespectacled Alexandra Wong, 64, had been a familiar face at anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year, often waving a large British flag, but she disappeared from the streets around August last year.
    Activists and human rights groups had expressed concern over her whereabouts.
    Speaking to media for the first time since her release after completing 14 days in quarantine, Wong said she had been detained by Chinese police when she tried to return to her home in Shenzhen on August 14, 2019.
    During about one and a half months detention at various centres, where up to 26 people would sleep in a room of less than 200 square feet, Wong said she was being interrogated almost every day about the Hong Kong protests.
    “I didn’t know what crime I committed,” Wong said.
    The Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau could not be reached for comment.
    After the detention, Wong said she was sent to the northwestern province of Shaanxi for a five-day patriotic camp in late September last year.
    Until early this month, Wong had been restricted by authorities from returning to Hong Kong, pending a trial that never took place in the end.    She stayed in her home in Shenzhen where she would get regular visits by the national security officers, she added.
    “I was scared I would be stopped from coming back to Hong Kong… I was scared everyday something might happen again everyday day,” Wong said.
    Wong called for the release of the 12 activists who were intercepted at sea in late August by mainland authorities as they tried to flee by boat to Taiwan.
    “I’m worried about the 12 young people; their treatment could be worse than me.”
(Reporting by Jessie Pang; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Clare Jim; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

10/17/2020 Hundreds Of Thai Protesters Defy Warnings In Bangkok by Kay Johnson and Patpicha Tanakasempipat
Pro-democracy protesters show the three-finger salute during an anti-government protest,
at Udom Suk station, in Bangkok, Thailand October 17, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Hundreds of Thais chanted at protests that popped up across Bangkok on Saturday in defiance of a crackdown on three months of demonstrations aimed at the government and the powerful monarchy.
    After police used water cannon for the first time against a protest by thousands of people in central Bangkok on Friday, protesters agreed to assemble at different points across the city on Saturday.
    Several hundred, many in black t-shirts, staged a rally at the Lat Phrao station in northern Bangkok.    Protests were also reported from several other parts of the city as police said rail services were shutting in much of central Bangkok to thwart the demonstrations.
    “Prayuth get out” the protesters chanted, in reference to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military ruler they accuse of engineering an election last year to prolong the hold of the army.
    In a widening crackdown, police have arrested more than 50 people – including several protest leaders – in the past week.
    “Violent or not, all gatherings are illegal,” police spokesman Yingyos Thepjamnong told a news conference.
    Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri told Reuters: “There is no win or lose for any side.    It’s all damage to the country.    The government would like to ask protesters to not gather and remain peaceful.”
    On Thursday, it ordered a ban on protests which have become the biggest challenge in years to the government and have brought unprecedented criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
    Immediately after the ban, tens of thousands of people protested in Bangkok in defiance.    Thousands more rallied on Friday, pushing back against riot police who responded by firing chemically-laced water that was dyed blue.
    “I condemn those who cracked down on the protesters and those who ordered it.    You all have blood on your hands,” protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, said after being freed on bail following his arrest on Friday.
    Police said that their response to Friday’s protest had been proportionate and in line with international norms.
    Protesters demand the removal of Prayuth, who first took power in a 2014 coup.    He rejects protesters’ accusations that he engineered last year’s election to keep power.    Breaking a longstanding taboo, protesters have also called for curbs on the power of the monarchy.
    The Royal Palace has made no comment on the protests but the king said Thailand needed people who love the country and the monarchy.
(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

10/17/2020 Myanmar Says Most Rakhine Voting Stations Will Not Operate In Nov Election
FILE PHOTO: A landscape view of the downtown with ancient pagodas in the background
in Mrauk U, Rakhine state, Myanmar June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo
    (Reuters) – More than half the polling stations initially planned in conflict-torn Rakhine for Myanmar’s Nov. 8 election will no longer operate, as parts of the state are too unstable for voting, the country’s election committee said.
    The region, where most parliamentary seats are held by Rakhine nationalist opponents of Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has been beset by an ethnic insurgency that has intensified this year.
    The ruling National League for Democracy said three of its candidates were abducted in Rakhine while campaigning on Wednesday.    Police did not respond to requests for comment, and Arakan Army insurgents made no statement.
    Some areas “are not in a position to hold a free and fair election,” the committee said in a statement late on Friday.
    There will be no voting in nine of 17 townships in Rakhine, according to the statement, while another four will have minimal voting.
    “This has a huge impact on us. We have only a few spots for voting left,” said Myo Kyaw, spokesman for the Arakan League for Democracy, one of the major parties in Rakhine.
    “There is no such thing as a 100% free and fair election.    The election this year is worse than the others before it,” he added.
    The government did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on what the cancellation of polling stations would mean for the fairness of the election.
    In the last election in 2015, the ethnic Arakan National Party won most of the seats for Rakhine state and the third-highest number of votes nationwide.    The party seeks a federal system in Myanmar, with more power for its states.
    Rakhine drew the eyes of the world in 2017 when more than 730,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh during a military crackdown, a campaign that UN investigators said was carried out with “genocidal intent.”    The army said it was responding to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
    The current conflict is being waged by the Arakan Army, which is fighting for greater autonomy for the western region.    Its recruits are largely Buddhists, who make up most of the population of Rakhine as well as Myanmar.
    Opposition parties have urged Myanmar’s government to postpone the election because of surging coronavirus infections and a rising death toll, but Suu Kyi has said the ballot must go ahead.
(Editing by Matthew Tostevin, Edwina Gibbs and William Mallard)

10/17/2020 New Zealand’s Ardern Storms To Re-Election With ‘Be Strong, Be Kind’ Mantra by Praveen Menon
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern takes pictures with supporters during a
campaign outing at Otara Market in Auckland, New Zealand, October 10, 2020. REUTERS/Fiona Goodall
    WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Jacinda Ardern turned speaking from the heart and smiling through adversity into a winning formula for a blowout re-election as New Zealand’s leader on Saturday.
    Now Ardern, who made a name for herself by crushing COVID-19 in the country and healing the nation after a massacre of Muslims by a white supremacist, faces a challenge to show her leadership extends beyond crisis management and kindness.
    Her Labour Party won a landslide victory in the general election, a resounding mandate that ushers in New Zealand’s first purely left-leaning government in decades and may allow her to form a single-party government.
    The win is also the reward for Ardern’s leadership through a series of extraordinary events that shaped her first three-year term: the gunman’s massacre of 51 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques and the eruption of the White Island volcano, which killed 21.
    “Be strong, be kind,” New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in more than a century repeated through these dramatic events, her empathetic leadership and crisis management skills often masking her government’s shortcomings.
    Ardern’s left-leaning government will face a looming economic hangover from COVID-19, a deep plunge in output and surge in debt after her strict lockdowns, a worsening housing crisis and a growing divide between rich and poor.
    Despite promising a transformational term in 2017, Ardern’s affordable housing programme was set back by blunders, plans for a capital gains tax that would have addressed the growing rich-poor divide were scrapped, and her government fell woefully short of its goal to reduce child poverty.
    Even on climate change, which Ardern called “my generation’s nuclear-free moment,” progress has been incremental.
    “I think it’s fair to say they have not achieved what they had hoped to achieve,” said Ganesh Nana, Research Director at Wellington economic think tank BERL.    “There are many disappointed with the pace of change.”
REFRESHING CHANGE
    Ardern burst onto the global scene in 2017 when she became the world’s youngest female head of government at the age of 37.
    She became a global icon in a rise dubbed “Jacinda-mania,” as she campaigned passionately for women’s rights and an end to child poverty and economic inequality in the island nation.
    Ardern, raised a Mormon by her mother and police officer father, left the church over its stance on LGBTQ people in the early 2000s and has since described herself as agnostic.
    Asked by a television presenter, hours after being appointed Labour leader in 2017, whether she planned to have children, Ardern said it was     “totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace.”
    Ardern did in fact have a baby daughter in June 2018, eight months after becoming prime minister – only the second elected leader to give birth while in office, after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto.
    Many took her pregnancy and maternity leave in office as symbolising progress for women leaders. Within three months of arriving in the world, her daughter Neve Te Aroha was at the U.N. General Assembly in New York with her mother.
    Ardern is feted globally as part of a new wave of progressive and young leaders that include France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau.
    Helen Clark, a former New Zealand prime minister for whom Ardern worked after university, said the young leader represents a refreshing and sharp point of difference in a world where news is dominated by utterances of populist and authoritarian leaders.
    “Jacinda Ardern can be best compared with the three Scandinavian women prime ministers who are from the centre-left,” said Clark, co-chair of a World Health Organization panel on the global COVID-19 response.
    “All of them have led good responses to the pandemic, putting health security first and communicating in an empathetic way with the public in each of their countries.”
CHRISTCHURCH
    Last year Ardern received worldwide praise for her response to the Christchurch attacks, which she labelled terrorism.    She wore a hijab as she met the Muslim community the next day, telling them the country was “united in grief.”
    She delivered a ban on semiautomatic firearms and other gun curbs, a stark contrast to the United States, where lawmakers and activists have struggled to address gun violence despite numerous mass shootings.
At the U.N. General Assembly, Ardern, asked world leaders: “What if we no longer see ourselves based on what we look like, what religion we practice, or where we live … but by what we value?"
    “Humanity, kindness, an innate sense of our connection to each other.    And a belief that we are guardians, not just of our home and our planet, but of each other.”
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Kevin Liffey and William Mallard)

10/17/2020 Armenia And Azerbaijan Say They Have Agreed Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire
Elton Kerimov visits his home for the first time after it was hit by shelling as a ceasefire begins during the fighting
over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the city of Terter, Azerbaijan October 10, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire from midnight, both countries said on Saturday night.
    “This decision was taken following the statement of the presidents of the French Republic, the Russian Federation and the United States of America, representing the co-chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group, of Oct. 1 2020, the Statement by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group of Oct. 5, and in line with the Moscow Statement of Oct. 10,” Armenia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
(Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan; writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

10/17/2020 France’s Macron Says Armenia-Azerbaijan Ceasefire Must Be Respected
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, speaks to the press following
a stabbing attack in the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine suburb of Paris, France, October 16, 2020. Abdulmonam Eassa/Pool via REUTERS
    PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday welcomed Armenia and Azerbaijan’s agreement to a humanitarian ceasefire from midnight and stressed that it should be strictly respected by both parties.
    “This ceasefire must be unconditional and strictly observed by both parties.    France will be very attentive to this and will remain committed so that hostilities cease permanently and that credible discussions can quickly begin,” the president’s office said in a statement.
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Pravin Char)

10/18/2020 China Passes Biosecurity Law To Prevent Infectious Diseases
A medical worker in protective suit collects a swab from a woman for nucleic acid testing, following new cases of coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) in Qingdao, Shandong province, China October 13, 2020. Picture taken October 13, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s top legislative body passed a new biosecurity law aimed at preventing and managing infectious diseases, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Saturday.
    The National People’s Congress Standing Committee voted to adopt the law on Saturday, according to Xinhua, and it would come into effect on April 15, 2021.
    The law would establish systems for biosecurity risk prevention and control, including risk monitoring and early warning, risk investigation and assessment, and information sharing.
    It would also have provisions to prevent and respond to specific biosecurity risks, including major emerging infectious diseases, epidemic and sudden outbreaks, and biotechnology research, development and application, reported Xinhua.
    China had announced in May that it aimed to fast-track the passing of the biosecurity law by year-end, following the global coronavirus outbreak which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
    China has managed to nearly stamp out domestic transmissions of the coronavirus following aggressive measures to curb its spread.    New infections detected last week in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao however ended China’s run of about two months without reporting a local case.
    China’s health commission last reported 13 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for Oct. 17, bringing the mainland’s total number of confirmed cases to 85,672.
(Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

10/18/2020 Iran Sees No Arms Buying Spree As It Expects U.N. Embargo To End
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a news conference following a meeting with Russia's
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia September 24, 2020. Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said it was self-reliant in its defense and had no need to go on a weapons buying spree as a United Nations conventional arms embargo was due to expire on Sunday despite strong U.S. opposition.
    “Iran’s defense doctrine is premised on strong reliance on its people and indigenous capabilities … Unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine,” said a Foreign Ministry statement carried by state media.
    The 2007 Security Council arms embargo on Iran was due to expire on Sunday, as agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal among Iran, Russia, China, Germany, Britain, France and the United States that sought to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in return for economic sanctions relief.
    Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew from the deal, however.
    In August, the Trump administration triggered a process aimed at restoring all U.N. sanctions, after the U.N. Security Council rejected a U.S. bid to extend the conventional arms embargo on the country.
    “Today’s normalization of Iran’s defense cooperation with the world is a win for the cause of multilateralism and peace and security in our region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.
    Days after triggering the process, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Russia and China not to disregard the reimposition of all U.N. sanctions on Iran which Washington has demanded.
    When asked whether the United States would target Russia and China with sanctions if they refuse to reimpose the U.N. measures on Iran, Pompeo said: “Absolutely.”
    “We have already done that, where we have seen any country violate … the current American sanctions, we’ve held every nation accountable for that.    We’ll do the same thing wi