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Biden says US, world in ‘struggle between democracy and autocracy’

President Joe Biden on Thursday delivered what he declared was the “God’s truth” marking the first anniversary of the US Capitol insurrection, the violent attack by Donald Trump’s supporters that has fundamentally changed Congress and raised global concerns about the future of American democracy.

Biden’s criticism was particularly blistering of then-President Trump and his violent supporters.

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“For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” Biden said. “But they failed.”

“I will stand in this breach,” he declared, his voice rising.

“Democracy was attacked,” Biden said at the Capitol. “We the people endure. We the people prevailed.”

The president and congressional Democrats started the day in Statuary Hall, one of several spots where rioters swarmed a year ago and interrupted the electoral count. Biden drew a contrast between the truth of what happened and the false narratives that have sprung up about the

Capitol assault, including the continued refusal by many Republicans to affirm that Biden won the 2020 election.

“You and I and the whole world saw with our own eyes,” Biden said.

He asked those listening to close their eyes and recall what they saw that day, as he described the harrowing, violent scene, the mob attacking police, threatening the House speaker, erecting gallows threatening to hang the vice president — all while then-President Trump sat at the White House watching it on TV.

“Here is the God’s truth about Jan. 6, 2021,” Biden said. “They were looking to subvert the Constitution.”

“We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie. Here’s the truth,” he said. “The former president of the United States of America has spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.”

Read more: Trump defends supporters who chanted ‘hang Mike Pence’ on Jan. 6 riot

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New Zealand raises concerns with China on South China Sea, Taiwan


New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said on Saturday she had expressed concerns over the South China Sea and tensions in the Taiwan Strait during talks with her Chinese counterpart at the end of a visit to Beijing.

Mahuta also said in a statement she “noted New Zealand’s deep concerns regarding the human rights situation in Xinjiang and the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong”, during her meeting with Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Qin Gang.

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“Nanaia Mahuta expressed concerns over developments in the South China Sea and increasing tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” the foreign minister’s statement said.

Mahuta said she reiterated New Zealand’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China is a key ally of Russia and both have criticised the U.S. and NATO for undermining global stability.

Mahuta arrived in China on Wednesday for the four-day trip, the first by a New Zealand minister since 2019, and also met China’s top diplomat Wang Yi as well as business and women leaders.

Wang told Mahuta that China and New Zealand had always respected and trusted each other, according to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry.

New Zealand has long been seen as the moderate voice on China in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance also involving the United States, Australia, Britain, and Canada. But New Zealand’s tone on security and China’s growing presence in the South Pacific toughened in the past year after China and the Solomon Islands struck a security pact.

New Zealand has consistently expressed concerns about the potential militarisation of the Pacific, amid China’s military buildup in the South China Sea.

China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the option of using force to take the island under its control, and claims a large part of the South China Sea.

Mahuta said the countries looked forward to resuming in-person dialogue on a range of issues following a gap of several years in face-to-face contacts.

She invited Qin to visit New Zealand, and also flagged a potential visit by New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to China, perhaps this year. Hipkins became prime minister in January after Jacinda Ardern resigned.

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Two migrants suffocate to death, more injured aboard Texas train


Two suspected undocumented immigrants suffocated to death aboard a freight train and 10 others in need of medical care were taken by helicopter or ambulance to hospital on Friday in south Texas, police said.

Officials in Uvlade, Texas, received an anonymous emergency 911 call advising them that numerous immigrants were suffocating inside a train, Uvalde police said in a statement. At least 15 immigrants needed immediate medical attention, police said.

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US Border Patrol officials were notified and able to stop the train just east of Knippa, Texas, in Uvalde County, police said. Officials closed US Highway 90 temporarily to land the helicopters.

Federal investigators were looking into the possibility of human smuggling, investigators with the US Department of Homeland Security said.

The tragedy occurred near the site of a more grave incident last year, when 53 migrants died in the back of a tractor trailer amid the sweltering heat during a smuggling attempt.

Dozens of migrants were packed into the back of a truck found on the outskirts of San Antonio on June 27.

Two Americans have been indicted in federal court in that case and could face the death penalty if convicted. Two Mexicans have been charged with lesser crimes.

On Friday, Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez suspected the migrants were dehydrated due to the heat of the train cars during warm weather, KSAT television reported.

“It’s sad to see that so many undocumented immigrants were found in this condition, and two of them lost their lives. It’s heartbreaking,” KSAT quoted Rodriguez as saying.

The Union Pacific railroad would lead the investigation, Uvalde police said.

The Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass, Texas, said on Twitter it was aware of the incident and in communication with US officials to determine if any of the victims were Mexican.

Homeland Security had yet to determine the nationalities of the victims or whether any families or children were among them, a department official with knowledge of the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Knippa is about 72 miles (115 km) west of San Antonio and about 120 miles (190 km) from the Mexican border.

It is near the town of Uvalde, which was the scene of a mass shooting at an elementary school in May last year that killed 19 school children and two teachers.

Read more:

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Mexico finds 57 adolescent migrants crammed into truck near US border

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Biden-Xi call will come later than the US hoped as China ties fray


US officials now expect that a phone call between President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping won’t happen as soon as they had hoped, as ties between the world’s two biggest economies continue to fray, according to people familiar with the matter.

China’s leaders still haven’t responded to US requests to set up the call, which American officials had said would take place soon after an annual meeting of the country’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, concluded March 13, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

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The US now expects a call won’t happen until after Taiwan’s president passes through the US in early April, the people said. That stop, which Chinese officials have already criticized, may include a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

The delay isn’t provoking panic but reflects a broader deterioration in the two countries’ relationship after a series of spats, testy exchanges and full-blown crises in recent months, all of which has been accompanied by increasingly aggressive rhetoric on both sides.

Asked to comment about the US assessment on the timing of a call, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson dismissed it as “idle speculation by an unnamed official.”

“The two leaders will speak at some point in the coming weeks, but we have nothing specific to announce,” Watson said.

The delay fits an emerging pattern: China still hasn’t responded to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s effort to speak with his Chinese counterpart, outreach the US made after Biden deployed US fighter jets to shoot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon that transited the US in February.

The balloon provoked a national uproar and led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to Beijing. China said the balloon was a harmless weather craft that drifted off course and accused the US of “hyperventilating.”

US officials have said restoring communications is a top priority. Blinken has been looking to reschedule his trip, and others including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen may visit the People’s Republic of China.

“It’s important that we keep those lines of communication open, particularly now when tensions are so high,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said earlier in the week. “As a matter of fact, we’re having discussions with the PRC right now about a potential visit by Secretary Yellen and Secretary Raimondo to go over there and talk about economic issues.”

Biden has put a particular emphasis on using one-on-one chats with other leaders as a way to smooth relations. He last met Xi in person in November on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia. The two leaders’ pledge to arrest the slide in ties was drowned out by the balloon uproar as well as US accusations that China is moving closer to Russia and may provide it lethal assistance for the invasion of Ukraine.

Tsai’s visit to Central America will be the latest irritant. She’s expected to stop over in New York on March 29 and 30 and then again in Los Angeles a week later.

Such stopovers are normally routine but will draw new scrutiny given how bad the US-China relationship is now.

Lower-level contacts between the US and China have continued, including between the Pentagon and the Chinese military as well as a recent visit to Beijing by the head of the State Department’s new “China House,” Rick Waters.

Read more: TikTok would be tough to ban in the US without a new law, experts say

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