Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for October, 2022

Newsline: Russia summons Dutch ambassador

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the Dutch ambassador to protest at what it said was an attempt by British intelligence to recruit the Russian military attache at the Russian embassy in The Hague. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-summons-dutch-ambassador-over-124502433.html) In a statement, the Foreign Ministry called on the Dutch authorities to prevent “countries that the Netherlands calls its allies” from taking such “unfriendly” actions.

Newsline: China’s top diplomat warns U.S. against ideological bias

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said Washington should not let itself be blinded by ideological bias when dealing with China, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported on Monday. (https://news.yahoo.com/senior-chinese-diplomat-urges-u-132237404.html) Wang Yi made the comments when he spoke on the phone with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Xinhua reported.

Newsline: Democratic Congressman’s Aide Fired After Allegedly Working with Chinese Embassy

An aide to Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer has been fired after an investigation concluded she had been working on behalf of the Chinese Embassy to set up meetings with congressional offices. The probe conducted by the House Sergeant at Arms discovered the allegations against Barbara Hamlett. Beyer’s office was notified of the findings, and she was subsequently terminated. “Congressman Beyer was totally unaware of these activities prior to being contacted by the House Sergeant At Arms,” Beyer’s deputy chief of staff Aaron Fritschner told National Review. “As soon as he learned of them, he followed every directive he was given by security officials. The staffer in question is no longer employed by the office of Congressman Beyer,” Fritschner continued. (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/aide-democratic-congressman-don-beyer-fired-after-allegedly-working-chinese-embassy) Hamlett’s time working in congressional offices dates back to the 1970s, according to congressional data. She had worked as a scheduler in Beyer’s office. During her time on Capitol Hill, Hamlett has worked for several members of Congress, including late Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., former Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and former Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y. Hamlett allegedly contacted congressional staff through emails, phone calls and office visits to invite them to meetings and lunches on behalf of officials for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Newsline: U.S. embassy says two citizens killed in Seoul’s stampede

Two U.S. citizens were among those killed, the U.S. embassy told CNN in a statement Sunday. “Our staff in Seoul and colleagues in the United States are working tirelessly to provide consular assistance to the victims of last night’s incident and their families,” an embassy statement read. “The U.S. Embassy in Seoul is working closely with local authorities and other partner organizations to assist U.S. citizens affected. We offer our sincerest condolences to the loved ones of those killed and continue to assist the injured. Due to privacy considerations, we have no additional details at this time.” (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2022/10/30/At-least-153-killed-133-injured-in-Halloween-stampede-in-Seoul/4081667140137/) The number of foreigners killed came to 20, according to the official tally from fire authorities. They are four each from China and Iran; three from Russia; and one each from the United States, France, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Norway, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Austria, officials said. At least 153 people have been killed and 133 others injured in a deadly stampede in Seoul’s Itaewon district as huge crowds of partygoers, many in their 20s, converged in the entertainment district for late-night Halloween celebrations.

Newsline: Pollution tweets from US embassies improved air quality in major cities

US embassies’ tweets showing real-time air quality data resulted in lower levels of air pollution in cities around the world. In 2008, the US embassy in Beijing installed an air quality monitor and began tweeting hourly readings. By 2020, more than 50 US embassies in 37 other countries had followed, creating a large data set that researchers could use to assess the impact of disseminating real-time pollution data. Akshaya Jha at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his colleagues analysed satellite data on air pollution in 466 cities in 136 low and middle-income countries, including 50 cities where US embassies installed monitors. They focused on pollution particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less, known as PM2.5. These particles are particularly harmful because they penetrate the lung barrier and enter the bloodstream, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and lung cancer. The study found that cities where US embassies tweeted air contamination data saw the levels of PM 2.5 drop by an average of 2 to 4 micrograms per cubic metre compared with those that didn’t. (https://www.newscientist.com/article/2343859-pollution-tweets-from-us-embassies-improved-air-quality-in-cities/) In 2016, it was estimated that outdoor air pollution caused 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide per year, but only 32 per cent countries in the study sample had any form of air quality monitoring. Fewer countries still made that data public.

Newsline: Qatar summons German ambassador

Qatar summoned the German envoy over remarks by Germany’s interior minister, who appeared to criticize the decision to award the World Cup to the Gulf Arab nation because of its human rights record. German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who is also responsible for sports, plans to travel to Qatar on Monday and Tuesday with the government’s human rights commissioner, German lawmakers and a delegation from the German soccer federation. In an official statement issued on Friday, Faeser noted that “no World Cup takes place in a vacuum.” She added that with regard to future international sporting events, “we must ensure that their awarding and organization is tied to human rights standards.” Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said it summoned the ambassador to convey its “disappointment and complete rejection and condemnation” of Faeser’s remarks. (https://www.wdtn.com/sports/ap-sports/ap-qatar-summons-german-envoy-over-world-cup-rights-criticism/) It was the first time Qatar has summoned an ambassador following years of heavy international scrutiny of its treatment of migrant workers and criminalization of homosexual relations. With just weeks to go before the start of the soccer tournament, Qatari officials appear increasingly frustrated with such criticism, which they say is often unfounded and ignores progress on labor issues in recent years.

Newsline: Elon Musk’s sustained diplomacy efforts gain momentum

Elon Musk’s suggestion of a diplomatic end to the Ukraine war initially encountered a strong negative reaction. Yet a possibility of diplomatic deals, once unthinkable, seems to become increasingly sayable. Self-Admitted non-diplomat Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) decided to take the initiative on ending the Russia-Ukraine war and invited leaders of Russia and Ukraine to Arizona for ‘peace talks’. The letter to President Joe Biden from 30 House progressives led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was advocating talks between the U.S. and Russia on Ukraine. Although it was retracted, the letter came as an indication that Musk’s advocacy of a negotiated settlement was apparently gaining momentum. A potential deal would involve Russia holding Crimea, a guarantee that Ukraine won’t join NATO and a referendum in the areas Russia held before February 2022, while Ukraine would get the rest of its territory back. Syndicated columnist @RichLowry argued it should be permissible to think about a potential diplomatic end to the Ukraine war. Diplomacy, like warfare, has its costs, which isn’t a good reason to shut down any discussion of it, @RichLowry wrote. (https://www.miningjournal.net/opinion/2022/10/diplomacy-in-ukraine-should-not-be-politically-correct/) Eventual negotiation that may suspend the conflict won’t be an ideal solution yet an imperfect peace will surely prove a better deal than a good war.

Newsline: U.S. says North Korean diplomacy unchanged

The United States said on Friday its diplomatic policy towards North Korea had not changed after a senior U.S. official responsible for nuclear policy raised some eyebrows by saying Washington would be willing to engage in arms-control talks with Pyongyang. Bonnie Jenkins, State Department under secretary for arms control, was asked at a Washington nuclear conference on Thursday at which point North Korea should be treated as an arms-control problem. “If they would have a conversation with us … arms control can always be an option if you have two willing countries willing to sit down at the table and talk,” she replied. “And not just arms control, but risk reduction – everything that leads up to a traditional arms-control treaty and all the different aspects of arms control that we can have with them,” she said. Referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, she added: “If he picked up the phone and said, ‘I want to talk about arms control,’ we’re not going to say no. I think, if anything, we would want to explore what that means.” Some experts argue that recognizing North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, something Pyongyang seeks, is a prerequisite for such talks. But Washington has long argued that the North Korean nuclear program is illegal and subject to United Nations sanctions. Asked about Jenkins’ comment, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: “I want to be very clear about this. There has been no change to U.S. policy.” Price said U.S. policy remained “the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” while adding, “we continue to be open to diplomacy with the DPRK, we continue to reach out to the DPRK, we’re committed to pursuing a diplomatic approach. We’re prepared to meet without preconditions and we call on the DPRK to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy.” (https://news.yahoo.com/u-says-north-korea-policy-020444741.html) The United States and its allies are concerned that North Korea may be about to resume nuclear bomb testing for the first time since 2017. North Korea has rejected U.S. calls to return to talks.

Newsline: German authorities looking into reports of illegal Chinese diplomatic police in Frankfurt

Authorities in Germany are investigating whether China maintains an illegal extraterritorial diplomatic police station in Frankfurt, a spokesperson said. A spokesperson for the interior ministry in the German state of Hesse said police and internal security services were checking a report by Spanish activist group Safeguard Defenders, who said China had set up undeclared police offices in 30 countries, including Germany. Confirming an earlier report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, the spokesperson said they so far had no indications such facilities existed in Frankfurt. (https://www.reuters.com/world/german-authorities-looking-into-reports-illegal-chinese-police-frankfurt-2022-10-28/) The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Dutch authorities on Wednesday said they were investigating Chinese offices that were operating illegally in the Netherlands, carrying out tasks like renewing driving licences. That followed allegations, denied by the Chinese embassy in The Hague, that the office had also harassed a Chinese dissident living in the Netherlands.

Newsline: Twitter becomes Elon Musk’s vehicle of freelance diplomacy

As Elon Musk completed his $44bn takeover of Twitter, the self-appointed “Chief Twit” had already used the platform to venture into geopolitics. Musk’s recent foray into global diplomacy saw him draw the wrath of Ukrainians for tweets urging Ukraine to seek a negotiated solution to Russia’s invasion and relinquish control of Crimea. The poll suggesting measures to solve the heightening situation in Ukraine earned a swift rebuke from President Volodymyr Zelensky. “Which @elonmusk do you like more?” he wrote along with the options: “One who supports Ukraine” and “one who supports Russia.” But whatever politicians think about Musk’s freelance diplomacy, the negotiated settlement apparently remains the only viable solution to end the Ukrainian conflict.