‘Don’t play with fire’: Beijing warns US over Taiwan

China strongly warned Washington against shipping weapons to Taiwan, and urged the US to consider the “gravity” of the issue after the Pentagon authorized selling tanks to Taipei.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi blasted Washington for allowing arm sales to Taiwan during his trip to Hungary on Friday.

“We urge the US to fully recognize the gravity of the Taiwan question… [and] not to play with fire on the question of Taiwan,” he told reporters via an interpreter, cited by Reuters.

Beijing considers Taiwan its territory and opposes its recognition as an independent country. The US, which does not formally recognize Taiwan in accordance with the ‘one-China principle’, had made diplomatic overtures towards the island nation under President Donald Trump. In 2016, he became the first US leader in more than 30 years to speak over the phone with his Taiwanese counterpart, Tsai Ing-wen. The move prompted a protest by Beijing.

Also on rt.com China threatens sanctions against US companies selling weapons to Taiwan...

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that it had authorized the sale of M1A2T Abrams tanks and FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Taiwan. China heavily criticized this decision, saying it undermines the ‘one-China principle’, and demanded to “immediately cancel” the potential sale.

The row over Taiwan adds to the tensions between the US and China, sparked by the ongoing trade war.

  • Published in World

Tehran Condemns UK’s Abidance by US’ Anti-Iran Policies

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi one again denounced the UK’s seizure of an oil tanker of his country in the Strait of Gibraltar, adding that the move showed that London is following Washington’s policies of increasing tension against Tehran.

Mousavi said that the UK’s seizure of Iran-operated oil tanker in the strait of Gibraltar on July 4 was in line with the hostile policies of the US against the Islamic Republic.

“We have told the British authorities that their move would increase tensions and is in line with those hostile policies of the US,” he said.

“From the first day the oil tanker was seized, Iran started taking legal and diplomatic measures. We summoned the UK ambassador twice and he appeared at the Iranian foreign ministry for several other meetings to provide some explanations,” he added.

“We have given the case to a lawyer who is currently taking legal and judiciary procedures,” Mousavi informed.

“Signatories to the JCPOA as well as other countries have done their best to preserve the deal,” Mousavi said, regarding the Iran nuclear deal of 2015, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “Iran’s next step, within the two-month deadline to Europe, is planned and will be implemented.”

On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the western officials' "worthless" claims that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy attempted to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.

Zarif said that the claims were aimed at creating tensions, adding that the British government’s claim is "worthless", and such claims were nothing new.

Zarif also pointed to the IRGC statement which dismissed the claim, saying that "they are seeking to cover up their weaknesses with such claims".

The IRGC Navy deployed in the Persian Gulf rejected Pentagon’s claims that its forces attempted to seize a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

The IRGC naval forces responsible for controlling the Fifth Naval Zone in the Persian Gulf rejected the Western media claims citing the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) that five Iranian fast boats attempted to capture a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf but they failed as the British Royal Navy frigate (HMS Montrose) interfered.

"Naval patrols of the Guards Corps in the Persian Gulf continue vigilantly, precisely and strongly based on regular procedures and missions, and during the last 24 hours, there have been no encounters with foreign vessels, including the British ones,” a statement by the IRGC Fifth Zone said on Thursday.

"If an order to seize foreign vessels is received, the IRGC naval forces controlling the Fifth Naval Zone in the Persian Gulf are able to carry out their mission in its geographical zone immediately, firmly and rapidly," it added.

Analysts believe that the US claims are aimed at counteracts criticism of Britain for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Last Thursday morning, British Royal Marines in Gibraltar stormed an Iran-operated supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar, seizing the 300,000-tonne Grace 1 based on the accusation that it was carrying oil to Syria in possible violation of the European Union’s sanctions on the war-torn Arab country.

According to Gibraltar authorities, the 28 crewmembers, who are nationals of India, Pakistan and Ukraine, are currently staying aboard the tanker, along with local police and customs officers boarding the vessel for a period of a probe.

Iran has condemned the move as “maritime piracy” and summoned Britain’s ambassador in protest. It has vowed to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.

Spain’s acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell stated on Friday that Madrid was planning to lodge a formal complaint against the UK and was studying the circumstances and looking at how the incident is affecting its sovereignty.

Spain, which challenges the British ownership of Gibraltar, has announced the seizure was prompted by a US request to Britain and appeared to have taken place in Spanish waters.

However, the British-claimed overseas territory rejected the claim, saying that Gibraltar had acted independently.

Gibraltar’s position comes as a British foreign office spokesman had welcomed the move on Thursday, describing it as a “firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities, acting to enforce the EU Syria Sanctions regime”.

The seizure of the Panama-registered Grace 1 came as the US pledged to cut Iran’s oil exports to “zero” as part of the sanctions that it has reinstated after leaving a landmark multilateral 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year, and many analysts take London’s move as an indicator that the UK is not committed to the nuclear agreement and is much on the side of Washington in Trump anti-Iran maximum pressure campaign.

  • Published in World

Iran Crosses Uranium Enrichment Limit In First Major Nuclear Deal Breach

Iran has surpassed the cap on uranium enrichment set by a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said Monday, warning that Tehran would take further steps to reduce its commitments under the accord.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, speaking to local news agencies, said Iran has exceeded the 3.67% limit and is now enriching uranium at 4.5%, a rate far below the 90% needed to produce a nuclear weapon.

The move was designed to pressure Europe to reset the terms of the nuclear agreement following a U.S. withdrawal from the pact last year. The deal curbed Iran's atomic energy activities in exchange for widespread sanctions relief.

Iran says European nations have failed to compensate Tehran for economic losses now that the United States has reimposed trade and other restrictions lifted under the deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency announced Monday that its inspectors have verified that Iran is enriching uranium above 3.67% uranium-235. IAEA spokesman Fredrik Dahl said in an email that the agency's director general, Yukiya Amano, has informed the IAEA Board of Governors of that development. The IAEA, a United Nations nuclear watchdog, monitors Iran's nuclear activities.

Before the 2015 nuclear agreement was signed, Iran at one point had more than 22,000 pounds of enriched uranium, a portion of it enriched to nearly 20%. Under the accord, Iran agreed to get rid of the vast bulk of its enriched-uranium stockpile.

Iran has said that it will scale back its obligations under the accord at 60-day intervals and gave Europe another deadline of Sept. 5 before taking a third step to breach the agreement.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said Monday that if European nations "do not fulfill their commitments seriously and do not do anything more than talk, Iran's third step will be harder, more steadfast and somehow stunning," the Associated Press reported.

Kamalvandi suggested Monday that his agency could raise Iran's enrichment level to 20% or reinstall advanced centrifuges deactivated under the deal.

"For now, we don't need 20%" enrichment, he said in an interview aired by Iran's state broadcaster, adding that the 4.5% rate was sufficient to supply fuel to Iran's power plants.

"But if we do, since we have already exceeded 3.67%, we have no limitations or obstacles to do so," he said.

Iran has said it needs uranium enriched to about 20% of U-235, a fissile isotope, for use in a 52-year-old, U.S.-supplied research reactor in Tehran to produce isotopes for medical and scientific purposes. The 2015 nuclear deal required Iran to fabricate an existing stockpile of 5% to 20% enriched uranium into fuel plates for the research reactor, transfer the material out of Iran in a commercial deal or dilute it to 3.67 percent or less - a level suitable for use as reactor fuel in Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant. Any additional fuel needed for the research reactor would be purchased by Iran at international market prices, according to the pact.

Mousavi said Iran has "no hope" that the deal's remaining signatories would salvage the agreement.

"But the door of diplomacy is open," he said. Vice President Mike Pence told a pro-Israel Christian group Monday that the Trump administration will sustain its maximum-pressure campaign against Iran, according to The Associated Press. Speaking in Washington, he said the U.S. "will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon." He added: "Iran must choose between caring for its people and continuing to fund its proxies, who spread violence and terrorism throughout the region and breathe out murderous hatred against Israel."

In a phone call with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his "deep concern over the danger of further weakening" the nuclear agreement and "the consequences that would necessarily ensue."

The two leaders "agreed to explore, between now and July 15, the conditions for a resumption of dialogue involving all the parties," the French government said in a statement.

Wendy Sherman, a former State Department official who was the lead U.S. negotiator in the talks with Iran, said that Iran's steps so far are reversible but that each step "does move us down a more dangerous path."

"This could spiral out of control quite quickly, depending on U.S. actions," she said.

Robert Malley, an adviser in the Obama White House who also participated in the negotiations, said Iran's actions so far are not a threat, yet.

"For the time being, it's more political signaling than proliferation," he said. "But it will continue to get worse. Iran will move away from the (2015 nuclear deal) if things do not change. It is telling the United States, if it wants to engage in brinkmanship, two can play that game."

  • Published in World

Germany rebuffs US call to send ground troops to Syria

Germany has turned down a request from Washington to deploy ground forces in Syria as the US military looks to scale back its presence in the region, describing the proposal as inconsistent with Berlin’s “well known” policy.

US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey confirmed on Sunday that he had asked the German government to provide troops to replace a portion of US forces currently stationed in Syria. He said the request was part of Washington’s preparations for an eventual US military withdrawal in the country.

Berlin didn’t wait long before issuing a curt “nein” to its transatlantic ally.

“When I say the government envisages sticking to the current measures in the anti-Islamic State (military) coalition, this includes no ground troops, as is well known,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said during a news conference on Monday.

Also on rt.com Washington wants German troops in Syria to help fill gap left by departing Americans...

The response shouldn’t come as a shock to Washington. Germany has generally been wary of a direct military intervention in Syria. In May of last year, Chancellor Angela Merkel assured the public that the Bundeswehr “will not participate in possible military actions.”

While Germany has shunned the idea, Jeffrey seems confident that other US allies will commit to sending troops to Syria. The US diplomat told Defense One that he expects a “breakthrough” agreement in the coming weeks, which would include coalition forces replacing US troops as they withdraw from Syria.

Filling in for US troops in Syria will come with certain moral and legal hazards, however. US military forces have been operating in Syria without the consent of Damascus or UN authorization, what is tantamount to an illegal occupation.

Damascus insists that the Western military presence in Syria is illegitimate, pledging to liberate “every inch” of the country from uninvited foreign troops.

Also on rt.com Good luck to EU: Bundeswehr crumbled under von der Leyen, who is now to take helm of the union

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USA will never bend Cuba with Helms-Burton Act, India says

The United States will never be able to destroy the Cuban Revolution by implementing the Helms-Burton Act as well as activating its title III, according to Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI).

The Donald Trump administration wants to further stifle the Cubans and this year activated the Title III, said Sitaram Yechury in an interview with Prensa Latina news agency in New Delhi.

Regarding this last step taken by the US government to try to break the Cuban Revolution, Yechury said that Washington has been trying since 1960, but have not succeeded and will not get their goals done, although they try to continue increasing economic pressure on the courageous Cuban people.

The Helms-Burton Act was enacted in 1996, 23 years ago. Through it, the White House has been further strengthening the criminal blockade against Cuba, and this Title III activated last March deals with properties nationalized in Cuba after the 1959 triumph of the Revolution, he said.

But those properties were nationalized according to Cuban norms. Cuba, as I remember it, negotiated with many European nations including Spain and other countries with whom it has excellent economic relations, all nationalization proceedings that were enacted, and there was no problem.

Donald Trump as president of the United States, such an aggressiveness increased considerably. And that is a part of Trump's policy of trying to establish US hegemony worldwide. They consider that Latin America is their backyard and that is why they meddle into internal affairs of Latin American nations, he added.

  • Published in Cuba

This isn’t about sneakers, but about people who want ‘no USA at all’

In just a few short years, the woke crusade against “hate” in the US has gone from demanding the removal of Confederate flags and monuments to targeting George Washington, the national anthem and now even the American flag.

Seen in isolation, the decision by Nike to scrap their sneaker design featuring the original flag of the 13 colonies that declared independence from the British crown in 1776 – reportedly at the urging of ex-football player turned social justice commissar Colin Kaepernick – seems like a tempest in a teapot. Seen from another perspective, though, it’s an alarming example of a trend that threatens to unravel the few remaining threads that keep America together. 

Also on rt.com Outrage as Nike scraps American flag sneaker after complaint from Colin Kaepernick...

Kaepernick’s reported reasoning was that the flag is associated with slavery – which indeed existed in the thirteen colonies at the time of their revolt against King George III, and later in what became the United States of America. By that logic, however, any American flag is inappropriate, because even though slavery was abolished in 1865, discriminatory laws persisted until 1964 – over a decade after Hawaii’s statehood brought the number of stars on the flag to 50.

Tell that to the 54th Massachusetts, an all-Black regiment that fought in the Civil War and was memorialized in the movie ‘Glory’. For that matter, tell it to Barack Obama, who flew the original flag at his second inauguration, just six years ago!

Of course, everything is fine when Obama does it, from flying the Betsy Ross flag to running detention centers for illegal immigrants. They were magically transformed into a “symbol of hate” and “concentration camps” as soon as the Bad Orange Man – otherwise known as President Donald Trump – took over, however. 

Cue the liberal “explainer” site Vox, which ignored Kaepernick’s reported reasoning about the flag to argue that the real problem was its use “as a symbol of white supremacy” since 2008, as a “racist” reaction to Obama’s election. 

According to Vox, Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross had nothing to do with that flag anyway, the whole story was apocryphal and made up. Sure, and George Washington never chopped down a cherry tree, but he’s still revered as the Founding Father of America, right?

Of course not. Earlier this week, the San Francisco, California school board decided to remove a ‘racist’ mural of Washington that showed slaves in chains and dead bodies of Native Americans. Ironically, the mural itself was a social justice statement of its time – it was painted in 1936 by George Arnautoff, a Communist artist who studied under Diego Rivera, and wanted to depict Washington without any of the patriotic romanticism. Today, however, being woke means going all Taliban on art from the past.

Also on rt.com ‘Snowflakes’ or empowered youth? RT debates student uproar over George Washington mural (VIDEO)...

The US national anthem has not been safe from scrutiny, either. Back in 2017, the statue of Francis Scott Key – who wrote the lyrics to the “Star-spangled Banner” – was defaced in Baltimore, after the liberal publication Salon denounced the anthem and Key himself as racist. 

Incidentally, Kaepernick became famous – and a “moral authority,” according to Vox – when he began to kneel during the anthem at football games, saying he was protesting police violence against African-Americans. 

Would “God Bless America” be safe? Not a chance. In April, sports teams rushed to banish any mention of Kate Smith –  for whom Irving Berlin wrote the song and who performed it for years at sporting events – because several songs she recorded in the 1930s “contain offensive lyrics.” Smith’s statue outside the Philadelphia Flyers arena was covered with a black tarp and then removed entirely, just like her recording of “God Bless America” was erased from the repertoire.

Also on rt.com ‘God Bless America’ singer banned over ‘racist’ 1930s songs...

This is the same arena, by the way, where the Democrats held their convention in 2016 and anointed Hillary Clinton as their candidate. Somehow, Smith’s songs from the 1930s didn’t bother anyone then.

Woke warriors have also targeted the Pledge of Allegiance. Written in 1892 by a socialist, Francis Bellamy, as part of a marketing ploy to sell American flags, the Pledge has since become a secular ritual, involving school children swearing (or not) to the flag “and the republic for which it stands.” 

So if the pledge is oppression, the flag is racist, George Washington is racist, Betsy Ross didn’t exist, the anthem is racist, “God Bless America” is racist by association… where does that leave the US? Is it at least the “greatest country in the world” as its politicians – of both parties – so often declare? Actually, no, according to the New York Times.

It’s a myth “at best outdated and at worst, wildly inaccurate,” says the nation’s paper of record in an opinion video released on the eve of July 4 celebrations. 

So as you see, this is about more than just sneakers – or even vapid virtue-signaling. This is about people who insist on being the arbiters of morality, and “canceling” anyone who dares to think otherwise; who hate the Bad Orange Man so much that they are willing to destroy the country he presides over; who chant “no fascist USA” and “no USA at all” – but then blame Russia for “sowing discord,” in order to cover up their tracks.

Happy birthday, America, wherever you are.

  • Published in World

Two Shot, 2 Others Hurt In San Francisco-Area Shopping Mall

Reuters: Two people were shot and two others hurt on Tuesday when at least one gunman opened fire at a mall in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno before apparently fleeing on a nearby train, police said.

Two people were taken to San Francisco General Hospital with gunshot wounds to their lower bodies in stable condition, San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini told reporters at a late-afternoon news conference.

"It was a senseless act," Barberini said, adding that opening fire in a crowded shopping mall near a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station showed a "true disregard for human life."

Two other people were treated at the scene for minor injuries they suffered in fleeing from the gunmen.

Barberini said police were searching for one or possibly two gunmen who may have fled the scene by getting on a BART train headed for Oakland.

The shopping mall in San Bruno, located south of San Francisco, was closed after the gunfire, police said on Twitter.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit authority said one of its commuter stops was shut down as a precaution after the shooting.

  • Published in World

John Bolton Is a Pathological Liar, Cuban FM Asserts

US National Security adviser John Bolton is a ''pathological liar'', Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez has asserted in Twitter.

The head of Diplomacy rebuffed Bolton's allegations in which the US official call Cuban doctors working in Venezuela 'repressors'.

He further wrote that Bolton missed to say that 400,000 Cuban health professionals have worked in 134 countries, and that Cuban ophthalmologists have made 3.4 million free eye surgeries.

Bolton is one of Washington's hawks in the Trump administration who together with Senator Marcos Rubio have advised the President to harden the economic, financial and commercial blockade on the neighboring island.

To justify their actions they have, for instance, included Cuba in the White House black lists as it recently did by mentioning the island among nations that encourage human trafficking, just like they have done with Venezuela and Nicaragua.

  • Published in Cuba
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