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China threatens to retaliate if US boycotts Beijing Winter Olympics

US politicians should stop calling for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics to avoid hurting bilateral ties and China will take “countermeasures” if necessary, China’s foreign ministry said on Monday.
The Biden administration is expected to announce this week that US government officials will not attend the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, CNN reported on Sunday.

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Those calling for a boycott are “grandstanding” and should stop “so as not to affect the dialogue and cooperation between China and the United States in important areas,” said Zhao Lijian, China’s foreign ministry spokesman.
“If the US insists in wilfully clinging to its course, China will take resolute countermeasures,” he said at a news conference.
US President Joe Biden said last month that he was considering such a diplomatic boycott to protest China’s human rights record, including what Washington says is genocide against minority Muslims. The administration has been under pressure from activists and members of Congress to skip the games.
The White House declined to comment on CNN’s report on Sunday. Four sources with knowledge of the administration’s thinking previously told Reuters that there was a growing consensus within the White House to keep US officials away from the Beijing Olympics.
CNN said the US boycott would not prevent its athletes from competing in the games.
The State Department did not respond to questions about the report late Sunday.

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Xi and Putin agree to bolster ties in politics, energy, trade: Everything to know


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping concluded on Tuesday rounds of talks, culminating in the signing of a joint declaration stating that the two countries will strengthen their “strategic cooperation” on the international stage in the fields of politics, energy, economy, trade, and military.

After the talks, Putin and Xi held a press conference at which the Russian president said the signed joint declaration reflects the nature of Sino-Russian relations which are “at the highest level in all [their] history”. He added that the two countries “share solid bonds of neighborly relations, mutual support and assistance, and friendship between our peoples.”

Xi said: “Russian-Chinese relations are demonstrating healthy and stable development dynamics. Political mutual trust between our countries is being built up, shared interests are multiplying, our peoples are getting closer.”

He added: “Cooperation in the trade-and-economic, investment, energy, cultural, humanitarian, and inter-regional dimensions is developing.”

Putin said the joint statement of the planned expansion in key economic cooperation areas until 2030 “sets the task of increasing the volume of trade in goods and services multiple times over, deepening ties in eight strategic areas, primarily finance, industrial manufacturing and technology, as well as transport and logistics.”

The declaration stressed that the boosting of ties between Russia and China was “independent of foreign influence.”

"The sides stress that efforts toward strengthening and deepening Russian-Chinese relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation entering a new era are a strategic choice independent from external influence,” the document reads according to the text published by the Kremlin.

Other dimensions of the joint declaration are:

Ukraine war

Russia and China criticized the role being played by the West (US and NATO) in the Ukraine war.

“The two sides point out that to settle the Ukraine crisis, the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be respected, bloc confrontation should be prevented and fanning the flames avoided. The two sides stress that responsible dialogue is the best way for appropriate solutions,” according to the text published by the Kremlin.

“We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China are consonant with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for that in the West and in Kyiv. However, so far we see no such readiness from their side,” Putin said.

Xi stressed that China maintained an “impartial position” on the conflict.

Energy

Moscow and Beijing will “jointly protect international energy security (including critical cross-border infrastructure) and stability of chains of production and supplies of energy products,” according to the Kremlin’s text.

The two countries will also “facilitate fair energy transitions and low-carbon development with consideration of the principle of technology neutrality and jointly contribute to long-term, healthy and stable development of the global energy market.”

Putin said Russia stood ready to ramp up oil and gas supplies to meet China’s growing demand for energy resources, highlighting that China is Russia’s largest oil buyer. “Russian business is able to meet the growing demand from the Chinese economy for energy resources, both as part of current projects and those that are currently being negotiated,” he said.

“By 2030, the total volume of gas supplies will be at least 98 billion cubic meters, plus 100 million tons of liquefied natural gas,” Putin added.

Trade and economy

Putin hailed China’s position as Russia’s leading trade and economic partner: “Of course, trade and economic cooperation remain a priority for us, considering that China has solidly established itself as the leading foreign trade partner for our country.”

He added: “Our two countries have been effective in working together to expand mutual trade and maintain this momentum. Last year, trade increased by 30 percent to set a new record of $185 billion. This year, trade may well exceed $200 billion, which would be a symbolic threshold.”

The two countries plan to expand the scale of the bilateral trade. “[It is planned] to increase scales and optimize the structure of trade, particularly on account of developing the electronic trade and other innovative instruments.”

The declaration added that it is also planned to “consistently promote high quality development of bilateral investment cooperation, interaction deepening in spheres of digital economy and sustainable, including green, development, form comfortable business environment and mutually increase the favoring level in trade and investments.”

Xi said the trade turnover between the two countries sky-rocketed by 110 percent over the past decade. “The trade turnover has grown by 116 percent over the decade. This made possible to not merely substantially strengthen the material basis of bilateral relations but also to give a significant impetus to socioeconomic development of both countries,” state news agency TASS quoted him as saying.

Military

The declaration stated that Moscow and Beijing will help each other defend their key interests and borders. The two countries will “provide resolute mutual support with regard to matters of defending each other’s core interests, primarily sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and development.”

US missiles

“Russia and China express concern over the United States’ increased activities toward creating a global missile defense system and deploying its elements in various parts of the world,” the declaration states.

The two countries “call on the US to stop undermining international and regional security, as well as global strategic stability in the interests of ensuring its unilateral military superiority.”

Nuclear weapons

Moscow and Beijing agree that nuclear powers should not deploy nuclear weapons abroad. “All nuclear powers must not deploy their nuclear weapons beyond their national territories, and they must withdraw all nuclear weapons deployed abroad,” the declaration reads.

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Putin, Xi pledge friendship but talks yield no Ukraine breakthrough


Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin emerged from two days of talks on Tuesday with warm words of friendship between China and Russia and joint criticism of the West but no sign of a diplomatic breakthrough over Ukraine.

Xi's visit to Moscow – long touted by the Kremlin as a show of support from its most powerful friend – featured plenty of demonstrative bonhomie. The two leaders referred to each other as dear friends, promised economic cooperation and described their countries' relations as the best they have ever been.

A joint statement included familiar accusations against the West – that Washington was undermining global stability and NATO barging into the Asia-Pacific region.

On Ukraine, Putin praised Xi for a peace plan he proposed last month, and blamed Kyiv and the West for rejecting it.

“We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China are consonant with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for that in the West and in Kyiv. However, so far we see no such readiness from their side,” Putin said.

But Xi barely mentioned the conflict at all, saying that China had an “impartial position” on it.

The summit, Putin's biggest display of diplomacy since he ordered his invasion of Ukraine a year ago, was partly upstaged in Kyiv, where Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit and met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The latest world leader to make the gruelling overland journey to show solidarity with Ukraine, Kishida toured Bucha on the capital's outskirts, left littered with dead last year by fleeing Russian troops. He lay a wreath by a church before observing a moment of silence and bowing.

“The world was astonished to see innocent civilians in Bucha killed one year ago. I really feel great anger at the atrocity upon visiting that very place here,” Kishida said. “Japan will keep aiding Ukraine with the greatest effort to regain peace.”

Diplomatic cover

Washington denounced the timing of Xi's visit to Moscow, just three days after the International Criminal Court in the Hague issued a warrant for Putin's arrest on war crime charges of illegally deporting Ukrainian children.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said visiting at such a time amounted to giving Putin “diplomatic cover” for atrocities. Moscow denies illegally deporting children, saying it has taken in orphans to protect them, and has opened its own criminal case into the ICC prosecutor and judges.

Putin and Xi signed a “no limits” partnership agreement last year just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine. Beijing has since declined to blame Moscow for the war and criticised the West for imposing sanctions on Russia, even as China has profited by securing a deep discount for purchases of oil and gas that Russia can no longer export to Europe.

The West has largely dismissed Xi's peace plan for Ukraine as at best too vague to make a difference, and at worst a ploy to buy time for Putin to rebuild his forces and tighten his grip on occupied land.

But Kyiv, perhaps hoping to keep China neutral, has been more circumspect, cautiously welcoming the plan when China unveiled it last month. Zelenskyy has repeatedly called on Xi to speak to him.

Ukrainian officials hinted that a phone call could be in the works: “We are waiting for confirmation,” Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “That would be an important move. They have things to say to each other.”

Kyiv says firmly there can be no peace talks with Russia unless it withdraws its troops. Moscow says Kyiv must accept territorial “realities” – a reference to its claim to have annexed nearly a fifth of Ukraine.

Washington has said over the past month that it is worried that Beijing could arm Russia, which China denies.

Explosion in Crimea

On the ground, Ukraine's Defence Ministry said an explosion in Dzhankoi city in Crimea overnight destroyed Russian Kalibr-KN cruise missiles as they were being transported by rail for use by Russia's Black Sea Fleet to attack Ukraine.

Russian-installed officials in Crimea, controlled by Moscow since 2014, said the blast was caused by drones laced with shrapnel and explosives, and targeted civilian sites. One person was injured, they said.

Kyiv never discusses responsibility for attacks in Crimea. Dzhankoi is Crimea's main railway hub, linking routes to Russia proper with naval bases on the peninsula and Russian-occupied territory in mainland Ukraine.

Mick Ryan, a retired Australian major general and military analyst, said Ukraine apparently being able to hit the cargo “forces the Russians to rethink their force posture and defensive deployments in Crimea and beyond”.

“Strikes like this are not war winning silver bullets. But, their impact is cumulative on the degradation of Russian morale and war fighting capability,” he tweeted.

Kyiv recaptured swathes of territory in the second half of 2022, but its forces have largely kept to the defensive in recent months. Moscow, meanwhile, has launched a massive winter offensive using hundreds of thousands of freshly called-up reservists and convicts recruited as mercenaries from jail.

Despite the bloodiest fighting of the war, which both sides describe as a meatgrinder, the front line has barely moved for four months.

The one exception has been around the small eastern city of Bakhmut, where Russian forces made gains in January and February. Kyiv has decided this month not to pull its forces out of the city.

In the town of Chasiv Yar, just west of Bakhmut, bursts of incoming and outgoing artillery fire could be heard. Between apartment blocks, mainly elderly residents queued for water and food delivered by a team from the State Emergency Service.

Oleksii Stepanov said he had been in Bakhmut until five days ago but was evacuated when his house was destroyed by a missile.

“We were in the kitchen and the missile came through the roof. The kitchen was all that was left standing,” said the 54-year-old.

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US ‘extremely troubled’ by Israeli parliament vote to legitimize settlements 


The United States said Tuesday it was “extremely troubled” by the Israeli parliament's vote legitimizing some settlements, calling the move "provocative" and in violation of promises to ally Washington.

“The United States is extremely troubled that the Israeli Knesset has passed legislation rescinding important parts of the 2005 disengagement law,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

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