Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for December 8, 2022

Newsline: U.S. decides not to send ambassador to Myanmar

The U.S. will downgrade its diplomatic relations with Myanmar, with the incumbent American ambassador, Thomas Vajda, returning home later this month and Washington deciding not to send a successor, Nikkei Asia has learned. “Deputy chief of mission Deborah Lynn will assume duties as charge d’affaires at [the] U.S. Embassy Rangoon upon Ambassador Vajda’s departure,” a State Department spokesperson responded to Nikkei by email. (https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Myanmar-Crisis/U.S.-to-downgrade-Myanmar-ties-decides-not-to-send-ambassador) Washington is making it clear that it does not recognize Myanmar’s military regime.

Newsline: Diplomacy results in U.S.-Russia prisoner swap

Brittney Griner is free. The 10-month saga ended Thursday with President Joe Biden announcing her return to the United States in a prisoner swap with Russia. Griner attempted to enter Russia in February and instead wound up facing drug charges that carried a nine-year prison sentence in a penal colony. The two-time Olympic gold medal winner and eight-time WNBA All-Star was “wrongfully detained,” according to the United States government, by Russia on charges of bringing vape cartridges filled with hashish oil in her luggage while returning to play for her professional team there. (https://sports.yahoo.com/brittney-griner-released-from-russian-prison-10-months-after-arrest-132117554.html) Griner remained in pre-trial detention for more than three months prior to her trial. On Aug. 4, she was officially convicted for drug possession and smuggling. Four months later, she was free. In exchange for her release, the U.S. government will reportedly send convicted international arms dealer Viktor Bout back to Russia, according to CBS News. Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of, among other things, conspiracy to kill Americans. Retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is also currently imprisoned in Russia for the past four years on espionage charges, is reportedly not part of the prisoner swap.

Newsline: China launches diplomatic charm offensive in the Middle East

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to market China as a competitive alternative to longtime U.S. dominance in the region. Xi is expected to be in Riyadh through Friday, mingling with at least 14 Middle Eastern leaders at the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development and the first-ever Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development. (https://news.yahoo.com/xi-jinping-takes-diplomatic-charm-175547579.html) It’s the latest in Xi’s diplomacy blitz that has included meetings with more than 25 heads of state since he secured a third term as China’s paramount leader in October. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Wednesday described the Arab-China summit as “epoch-making” and said Xi will seek Arab support for his signature Global Development and Global Security Initiatives. The summits allow Xi to position China as a friendly and reliable ally in stark contrast to the frosty fist bump and stern lecture on human rights that President Joe Biden delivered to Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his trip to the country in July.