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Newsline: US top diplomat expected in Beijing on June 18

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China next week for long-delayed talks aimed at stabilizing tense relations, and a U.S. official said he is expected to be there on June 18. (https://neuters.de/world/blinken-visit-china-talks-next-week-report-2023-06-09/) Reuters reported on Wednesday that Blinken would travel to China in the coming weeks, citing an official who spoke on condition of anonymity. An official on Friday said Blinken would be in Beijing on June 18, but gave no other details. In February, Washington’s top diplomat scrapped a planned trip to Beijing, which would have been the first by a U.S. secretary of state in five years, over a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over the United States. Washington has been keen to reschedule the trip, and the timing emerged after the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that China has reached a secret deal with Cuba to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island roughly 100 miles (160 km) from Florida.

Newsline: US Vice President to announce new embassies on Caribbean trip

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will announce more than $100 million in new assistance for the Caribbean when she visits the Bahamas on Thursday, including the establishment of two U.S. embassies. Over $50 million will be spent on humanitarian aid for Haiti, a senior U.S. administration official said. (https://news.yahoo.com/us-vice-president-harris-announce-090154225.html) Harris, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the Bahamas since its independence in 1973, and Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis will host Caribbean leaders in Nassau. They will discuss topics including security and firearms trafficking to the region and U.S.-Caribbean efforts to respond to climate change. The official said the embassies would be in the eastern Caribbean but did not disclose specific locations.

Newsline: State Department says US, Chinese diplomats held productive talks

A senior U.S. diplomat held candid and productive talks on Monday with Chinese officials, the State Department said. The visit to Beijing by Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, followed China’s snub last week of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who had sought a formal meeting with his Chinese counterpart. Kritenbrink, U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns and National Security Council official Sarah Beran met with Chinese foreign ministry officials Ma Zhaoxu and Yang Tao, the State Department said in a statement. “The two sides had candid and productive discussions as part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and build on recent high-level diplomacy between the two countries,” the statement said, adding that they exchanged views on the bilateral relationship, cross-Strait issues and other matters. “U.S. officials made clear that the United States would compete vigorously and stand up for U.S. interests and values,” it said. (https://neuters.de/world/chinese-state-media-dismisses-us-diplomats-visit-beijing-2023-06-05/) Kritenbrink’s arrival on June 4 coincided with the 34th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown by Chinese troops on demonstrators in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that rights groups say killed hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters.

Newsline: Top US diplomat condemns Kosovo after clashes

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday condemned the government of Kosovo for accessing municipal buildings in the country’s north by force and called on Prime Minister Albin Kurti to reverse course. Kosovo’s police force fired tear gas and clashed with demonstrators in front of a municipal building in the majority-Serb town of Zvecan earlier on Friday, amid protests following widely-boycotted local elections. Blinken in a statement said Kosovo’s actions went against U.S. and European advice and “have sharply and unnecessarily escalated tensions, undermining our efforts to help normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia and will have consequences for our bilateral relations with Kosovo.” He called on all sides to “refrain from any further actions that will inflame tensions and promote conflict.” (https://neuters.de/world/europe/top-us-diplomat-condemns-kosovo-after-clashes-majority-serb-town-2023-05-26/) Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic placed the country’s army on full combat alert and ordered army units to move closer to the border with Kosovo after the clashes.

Newsline: China’s new ambassador to US acknowledges difficulties in relations

China’s new ambassador to Washington Xie Feng said on Tuesday that he will seek to enhance China-U.S. cooperation, but that relations face serious challenges. “I have come here to safeguard China’s interest. This is my sacred responsibility,” Xie told reporters after landing at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. “I’m also the envoy of Chinese people, so I’ve come here to enhance China-U.S. exchanges and cooperation,” said Xie. (https://neuters.de/world/new-chinese-ambassador-us-acknowledges-challenges-relations-2023-05-23/) Xie, 59, afluent English speaker who was previously posted twice to China’s Washington embassy, most recently served as a vice foreign minister charged with overseeing policy toward the U.S. The two countries’ relations face “serious difficulties and challenges,” Xie said in his brief remarks. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the U.S. welcomed Xie’s arrival. “We look forward to working with the ambassador designate and his team. We remain committed, as we said on a number of occasions, to maintain channels of communication with the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to responsibly manage competition,” Miller said. Xie has taken a confrontational tone in past meetings with Biden administration officials, including when hosting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in 2021 in Tianjin, where he issued a long list of demands for the U.S. to improve ties while accusing Washington of creating an “imaginary enemy” in China. Nonetheless, Xie’s arrival at the embassy post, which has been vacant since his predecessor Qin Gang was elevated to foreign minister late last year, could help Beijing parry criticism that it has ignored the Biden administration’s calls for increased engagement.

Newsline: China’s new ambassador to arrive in Washington

China’s new ambassador to the U.S., Xie Feng, is reportedly expected to arrive in Washington, D.C., as soon as Tuesday on the heels of President Biden leading the G7 summit in Japan. Politico first reported Xie’s impending arrival this week, citing two people familiar with his schedule. (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/chinas-new-ambassador-us-expected-arrive-washington-tuesday-heels-g7-summit-report) Xie, a career diplomat who specializes in U.S.-China relations, will succeed Qin Gang, who departed Washington in January to become China’s new foreign minister. Unlike Qin, Xie reportedly does not have a direct line to Chinese President Xi Jinping, which Qin seemingly levied to advance himself to the more senior leadership role. Xie beat out Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying for the ambassador position, Politico reported, citing a Washington, D.C.-based diplomat with expertise in Chinese foreign policy. Hua is known for espousing more corrosive language toward the United States online, signaling Chinese leadership prefers a different approach to diplomacy in Washington.

Newsline: US, French diplomats criticize Israeli order on West Bank settler outpost

The US State Department rebuked Israel on Sunday over an order that allows Jewish settlers to establish a permanent presence in a West Bank outpost. The State Department has repeatedly called on Israel to refrain from any moves that escalate tensions with Palestinians, like formalizing settler outposts, and specifically warned it over Homesh. “We are deeply troubled by the Israeli government’s order that allows its citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, which according to Israeli law was illegally built on private Palestinian land,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/us-troubled-by-israeli-order-settler-presence-west-bank-outpost-state-dept-2023-05-21/) The chief of the Israeli military’s Central Command signed an order on Thursday that allows Israelis to enter the Homesh outpost area, paving the way for a formal settlement to be built there. The French foreign ministry also criticized the move, which it said was contrary to international law and breached commitments made by Israel at regional meetings this year in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh. Israel’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Newsline: US State Department eyes expediting weapons export process

The U.S. Department of State said it wants to update internal processes for the tens of billions worth of foreign military sales it oversees each year to speed up approvals “for an age of heightened strategic competition.” “The time has come to reassess and adapt security cooperation to meet new and emerging challenges” the State Department said in a fact sheet, adding that competition with China and Russia’s war in Ukraine were factors that led to the 10-point plan to re-tool the department’s oversight of foreign military sales. The plan, which followed an internal review at the State Department, involves “anticipatory policy decisions” for allies’ potential future purchases to begin the decision process earlier for allies’ requests. (https://neuters.de/world/us/us-state-department-wants-speed-weapons-export-process-2023-05-18/) Other items in the plan included more training for the military attaches stationed at embassies that are the front line of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process.

Newsline: U.S. condemns reported arrest of former U.S. consulate employee in Russia

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it “strongly condemns” the reported arrest of Robert Shonov, a former employee of the United States’ mission in Russia, calling allegations he illegally collaborated with foreigners “wholly without merit.” Russian state news agency TASS reported on Monday that Shonov had been detained in the far eastern city of Vladivostok but was being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, usually reserved for serious crimes including espionage. Shonov, a Russian national, was employed by the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok for more than 25 years until Russia in 2021 ordered the termination of the U.S. mission’s local staff, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on Tuesday. At the time of his arrest Shonov was employed by a company contracted to provide services to the U.S. embassy in Moscow and his role was to compile summaries of Russian media reports, Miller said, adding that this arrangement complied with Russia’s laws and regulations. (https://news.yahoo.com/u-condemns-reported-arrest-former-173321787.html) Russia’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Newsline: US number two diplomat to retire next month

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the country’s number two diplomat, said on Friday she will retire at the end of June after three decades in Washington’s foreign policy establishment. Sherman is the first woman to serve in her current role, in which she has headed up the Biden administration’s diplomacy with China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken credited Sherman with breaking barriers for women and working on “some of the toughest foreign policy challenges of our time.” “Our nation is safer and more secure, and our partnerships more robust, due to her leadership,” Blinken said in a statement. (https://neuters.de/world/us/us-deputy-secretary-state-sherman-retire-blinken-2023-05-12/) In a note to State Department staff announcing her retirement, Sherman said her latest stint in government starting in 2021 was marked by shifting geopolitical tides.