Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 22, 2022

Newsline: Shots fired near embassies of China, Pakistan, Israel, Nigeria and Singapore in Washington

Three people were shot Friday in Washington D.C., prompting a heavy police response as authorities continue to search the area for any suspects, authorities said. The Metropolitan Police Department said it received reports around 3:20 p.m. of shots fired in the 4100 block of Connecticut Avenue NW. Social media users reported hearing heavy gunfire in the area. Responding officers found a man, woman and a girl with gunshot wounds. They were listed in stable condition and were expected to survive, the MPD said. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said on Twitter that it is also responding to the shooting to assist local authorities. Uniformed Secret Service personnel are also helping the MPD, it said. Anthony Guglielmi, the chief of communications for the U.S. Secret Service, said the shooting had “no impact to Secret Service protectees.” (https://www.foxnews.com/us/dc-police-respond-reports-shots-fired-shooting-victims) The shooting occurred near several embassies in the Van Ness area, including embassies for China, Pakistan, Israel, Nigeria and Singapore.

Newsline: U.S. top diplomat meets Ukrainian Prime Minister

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Friday additional ways that the United States can help Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. (https://www.reuters.com/world/blinken-ukrainian-pm-discussed-additional-ways-us-can-help-ukraine-state-dept-2022-04-22/) They attended a meeting at State Department in Washington, U.S., April 22

Newsline: White House says envoy to Saudi Arabia to be nominated

President Joe Biden intends to nominate Michael Ratney to be U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the White House said on Friday, amid strained relations between Washington and its traditional Gulf allies. (https://www.reuters.com/world/biden-nominate-michael-ratney-envoy-saudi-arabia-white-house-says-2022-04-22/) Ratney previously served as charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and as U.S. special envoy for Syria. A career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, he also served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Qatar. Washington has been trying to persuade Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, to pump more oil to offset potential losses in Russian supplies after Moscow was sanctioned by the West over its invasion of Ukraine. Prior to that, their traditionally strong alliance had hit a bad patch, due in part to the Saudi role in the war in Yemen and by the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Newsline: Neutrality Seen a Trap for Ukraine

Despite the early failure of the Russian military to gain ground in the face of Ukraine’s extremely effective resistance, peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have not gone far. Russia has hardly been interested in engaging in any meaningful diplomatic conversations since the war began. Last month, the first high-level meeting in Ankara, Turkey, between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, ended with no progress. Russia could not even agree to grant a temporary cease-fire to enable Ukraine to open humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of trapped civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol. It was hardly imaginable that top officials would achieve any breakthrough on ending the war. (https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/04/22/ukraine-russia-putin-nato-neutrality-trap/) One of the key Russian demands is that Ukraine declare neutrality and demilitarize. This would allow Russia to claim a propaganda victory in successfully averting the nonexistent threat of NATO enlargement on its southern border, while leaving Ukraine defenseless.

Newsline: Polar diplomacy in a tense international climate

The Arctic spans multiple countries and continents, making collaboration and diplomacy vital to its management. The war in Ukraine has strained the international community’s relationship with Russia, a key player in Arctic affairs. (https://www.alaskapublic.org/2022/04/22/talk-of-alaska-polar-diplomacy-in-a-tense-international-climate/) Meanwhile, other nations and Arctic residents working to continue collaboration on safety, vessel traffic, climate change and development.

Newsline: Official slams accusations of China ‘debt trap diplomacy’

China’s overseas lending is not a “debt trap”, former central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan has said, after two of the world’s biggest international financial institutions warned of growing credit risks in poorer countries as they struggle with the coronavirus and soaring food prices. Speaking at the Boao Forum for Asia, Zhou acknowledged that some Chinese lending might not have always been “carefully designed” and poor communication has created problems. But in general, it was not like the image portrayed by some media and countries, which amounted to a “smear” on China, he said. “Most of [the lending] is for projects that companies in debtor countries have demanded, and at the same time they have economic benefits and are beneficial to the country in the long run,” Zhou told a panel discussion on China’s Belt and Road Initiative. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/china-debt-trap-diplomacy-ex-093000768.html) The Belt and Road Initiative, a globe-spanning infrastructure project introduced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to connect Asia, Europe and Africa, while deepening economic integration and expanding China’s influence. But it has also been blamed for rising debt in low-income countries due to costly projects that have strained finances. China has often been accused of “debt trap diplomacy” – meaning entrapping countries with loans that cannot afford to repay. Following a default, China can then seize assets, according to critics.

Newsline: U.K. to reopen embassy in Kyiv next week

The British government will next week reopen its embassy in Kyiv, joining a host of nations returning to the Ukrainian capital after Russian forces pulled back from Kyiv and other cities in the north. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that after Moscow retreated from areas in the north of Ukraine, the embassy could reopen. Mr. Johnson, speaking at a news conference in India, cited “the extraordinary fortitude and success” of President Volodymyr Zelensky for the decision to reopen the embassy. (https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/russia-ukraine-latest-news-2022-04-22/card/u-k-to-reopen-embassy-in-kyiv-qCxT4PAViSFcMjTgTcio) The U.K. had moved its embassy operations to Lviv, western Ukraine. Last week, Italy and France said they would return to Kyiv to reopen their countries’ embassies. Several countries have re-established their diplomatic presence in the Ukrainian capital, including Turkey, Austria, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia, as well as officials representing the European Union. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv is still closed and won’t reopen until it is safe to do so, a State Department spokesman said last week.

Newsline: Former US ambassador says South Korea, Japan need ‘strong mediator’ to work out differences

A healthy alliance between South Korea, Japan and the United States is “crucial” to Asia’s stability, former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris said. But, he added, Seoul and Tokyo need a third-party mediator like Washington to help them work out their differences. “Since World War II, the network of U.S. alliances and partnerships has been at the core of a stable Indo-Pacific,” Harris said during a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Hudson Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. “Relationships matter and alliances matter.” To address North Korea’s provocations and ensure stability in the region, South Korea and Japan must put aside the “bad history” between them, he said. (https://www.stripes.com/theaters/asia_pacific/2022-04-22/south-korea-japan-historical-differences-asia-stability-harry-harris-5764094.html) Historical divisions often mar relations between two of the region’s most powerful and successful democracies. For decades, the two countries have bickered over ownership of a cluster of small islands in the Sea of Japan, or East Sea. The islands, which Seoul and Tokyo call Dokdo and Takeshima, respectively, have prompted the two nations to create government websites dedicated to their claims.

Newsline: US diplomat sharpens threat of sanctions if China helps Russia

The No 2 US diplomat came to Europe this week to reiterate a barbed threat to China over its stance on Russia’s war on Ukraine: provide material support to Moscow, and face sweeping sanctions and export controls. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman issued the warning during a lengthy broadside against Beijing in Brussels on Thursday. Speaking to European lawmakers, press and students, Sherman said that she and other senior US officials had repeatedly explained the US position on sanctions to their Chinese counterparts. “President [Joe] Biden has spoken to Xi Jinping directly; Jake Sullivan, our national security adviser, to [China’s top diplomat] Yang Jiechi; Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken to Foreign Minister Wang Yi; I myself have spoken to more than one [official] in the PRC,” Sherman said. “And we’ve been very direct that they have seen what we have done in terms of sanctions, export controls, designations vis-a-vis Russia, so it should give them some idea of the menu from which we could choose if, indeed, China were to provide material support,” she added. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/ukraine-war-senior-us-official-093000548.html) Sherman’s remarks were the latest in a series by senior US officials warning that Washington will not hold back from punishing Beijing if it is found to be assisting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war effort.

Newsline: Britain, India eye common diplomacy on Ukraine

India and Britain on Friday called on Russia for an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced steps to help move New Delhi away from its dependence on Russia by expanding economic and defense ties. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told reporters that both sides discussed the situation in Ukraine, underscoring the importance of diplomacy and dialogue to settle issues. “Both sides also called for a free, open, inclusive and rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific,” Modi said an apparent reference to China’s aggressiveness in the region. Johnson switched over to Hindi language to describe Modi as a “Khaas Dost,” or special friend, and said, “Our relations have never been as strong or as good between us as they are now,’’ (https://news.yahoo.com/britain-offer-next-generation-defense-050626430.html) Johnson said Britain will issue an Open General Export License to India, reducing bureaucracy and shortening delivery times for defense procurement.