Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for US

Newsline: US, China top diplomats to meet on high tensions

The top US and Chinese diplomats meet Friday in New York as soaring tensions show signs of easing, but Beijing issued a new warning against support for Taiwan. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi are set to meet on the sidelines of the annual United Nations summit, their first encounter since extensive talks in July in Bali where both sides appeared optimistic for more stability. One month later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, infuriating Beijing which staged exercises seen as a trial run for an invasion of the self-governing democracy. In a sign of smoother ties, Wang said he met in New York with US climate envoy John Kerry despite China’s announcement after Pelosi’s visit that it was curbing cooperation on the issue, a key priority for Biden. But in a speech before his talks with Blinken, Wang reiterated anger over US support for Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory. (https://news.yahoo.com/us-china-top-diplomats-meet-015230512.html) President Joe Biden in an interview aired Sunday said he was ready to intervene militarily if China uses force, once again deviating from decades of US ambiguity.

Newsline: US embassy in Cuba to resume ‘full visa processing’ in 2023

The US embassy in Cuba said it would resume “full immigrant visa processing” next year for the first time since 2017, when the mission was closed over alleged sonic attacks on diplomatic staff. The announcement came as Cuba is experiencing an unprecedented exodus of undocumented migrants amid the communist country’s worst economic crisis in 30 years due to ramped-up US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic. “This change will… eliminate the need for Cubans applying for immigrant visas in family preference categories to travel outside of Cuba to Georgetown, Guyana for their interviews,” the embassy said in a statement. (https://news.yahoo.com/us-embassy-cuba-resume-full-220731586.html) The United States evacuated its diplomatic staff and their families in 2017 after at least two dozen people suffered brain injuries that resembled concussion, but with no exterior signs of trauma. The embassy closure made obtaining a visa an expensive nightmare for Cubans, who now had to travel to a third country, at their own cost, to put in an application. Many have sought to make it to US shores even without a visa, many trying their luck without travel documents on long, dangerous journeys by sea or by road via Central America. According to US border police, a record 198,000 Cubans illegally entered the United States in the last 11 months. The US embassy resumed limited visa services in Havana in May, but announced “full resumption” from early 2023, enabled by an increase in embassy personnel.

Newsline: US brings carrot-and-stick diplomacy to UN

US President Joe Biden took a big carrot to the Big Apple for his UN speech — and for the Russians, an even bigger stick. In an approximately half-hour address Wednesday to the UN General Assembly, Biden covered a litany of global problems, from the war in Ukraine to tension around Taiwan, hunger in Africa and climate change everywhere. In every case, he said, the United States was ready to act. (https://news.yahoo.com/biden-brings-carrot-stick-diplomacy-020339928.html) It was confirmation of the credo Biden has preached since the day he took office: that America is back, and that means back on top. Unlike isolationist Donald Trump, who ditched international agreements, entered erratic relationships with US foes and treated US allies as a nuisance, Biden’s worldview, laid out from the podium of the UN’s huge hall, was more straightforward. The United States will get involved everywhere, he said. The only question is whether that will be with a carrot — or, as with Russia, a stick.

Newsline: Man arrested for possessing ‘gunpowder’ near US Embassy in Tokyo

A 26-year-old male student was arrested on charges of violating the explosives control law after he was found in possession of what appeared to be homemade gunpowder while near the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo last month. Before his arrest, Shogo Koyama, a university student from Suita, Osaka Prefecture, had been quoted as saying during voluntary questioning that he had “come to throw (explosives) into the embassy” after learning how to make the mixture online, according to investigative sources. (https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20220920/p2g/00m/0na/054000c) Koyama is suspected of placing around 160 grams of gunpowder into a cloth-wrapped cup and carrying it in his pocket while on the street in front the embassy around 9 p.m. on Aug. 8. He was stopped by a police officer on duty who noticed him acting suspiciously. The police have searched locations including the man’s house in Osaka Prefecture in western Japan and seized what are believed to be ingredients needed to make gunpowder.

Newsline: US top diplomat urges diplomacy as Armenia, Azerbaijan FMs meet

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged “a durable peace” between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as the top United States diplomat brought the two nations’ foreign ministers together for their first in-person meeting since an outbreak of violence last week. Blinken hosted Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov at a New York City hotel on Monday on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly. It was the foreign ministers’ first face-to-face meeting since two days of shelling last week. Blinken said he was “encouraged” there had been no violence for several days. “Strong, sustainable diplomatic engagement is the best path for everyone,” he said ahead of the meeting. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/9/19/blinken-urges-diplomacy-as-armenia-azerbaijan-fms-meet) The meeting was held just a day after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Armenia and condemned Azeri attacks, drawing complaints from Baku.

Newsline: Turkey says Pelosi’s statements ‘sabotage’ Armenia-Azerbaijan diplomacy

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “biased” statements regarding the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan “sabotage diplomacy efforts” and were unacceptable. (https://news.yahoo.com/turkey-says-pelosis-statements-sabotage-120621976.html) Pelosi visited Armenia this weekend, in an unprecedented show of U.S. support for the country, which has for over three decades been locked in conflict with its neighbour Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. On Twitter, Oktay also called on Washington to clarify whether Pelosi’s statements reflect the official U.S. position.

Newsline: Russia says U.S. embassy not helpful in prisoner swap talks

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Monday that it was ready for talks on a prisoner exchange to free U.S. citizens jailed in Russia, but that the American embassy in Moscow was “not fulfilling its official duties” to maintain dialogue. Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “We have stated many times that we are ready for negotiations to resolve the fate of U.S. citizens convicted in Russia and Russian citizens in the U.S.” (https://www.fxempire.com/news/article/russia-says-ready-for-u-s-prisoner-exchange-talks-but-u-s-embassy-not-fulfilling-duties-1131378) Russia has previously suggested that it is open to a prisoner exchange which could include U.S. Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan, basketball star Brittney Griner and Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer jailed in the United States. Griner is serving a 9 year jail sentence for possession and smuggling of cannabis, while Whelan is serving a 16 year term for espionage. The Kremlin has repeatedly said that what it called “megaphone diplomacy” from Washington would not help efforts to organise a prisoner exchange, urging closed talks instead.

Newsline: Maldives eyes first U.S. embassy later this year or in early 2023

The Maldives hopes to see the United States open a first embassy in the country at the end of the year, or early next, and the Indian Ocean state hopes to reopen its embassy in Washington by the end of this year, the Maldivian foreign minister said on Sunday. Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid told an event in New York hosted by a U.S. think tank that he believes relations between the Maldives and Washington “have never been this strong.” “Hopefully by the end of this year, or early next year, we will have the United States embassy up and running in the Maldives, which is historic,” he said. He said the Maldives was looking for property to house an embassy in Washington and added: “It is our target that we will have our embassy up and running by the end of the year.” (https://news.yahoo.com/maldives-hopes-first-u-embassy-230515015.html) Shahid said the Maldives had an embassy in Washington after independence in 1965 but this had to be closed due to budgetary reasons. He said he reopened the embassy in 2007 in his previous stint as foreign minister, but it was closed again after a change of government in 2008. Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the plan to open a U.S. embassy in the Maldives during a visit to the country in 2020. In July, U.S. President Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate a career foreign service officer, Hugo Yue-Ho Yon, to be ambassador to the Maldives. U.S. diplomatic dealings with the Maldives are currently handled through the U.S. embassy in politically troubled Sri Lanka, while the Maldives is represented in the United States via its mission to the United Nations.

Newsline: Almost a dozen U.S. ambassadors to Latin America and the Caribbean are still not in place

Almost two years after President Joe Biden stepped into office, nearly a dozen ambassadors to key countries in the Western Hemisphere are still not in place, with eight nominees having their confirmation hearings put on hold by a Republican senator — all during a pivotal time in the region. Ambassadorial nominees to Nicaragua, Brazil, Panama, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, El Salvador and the Organization of American States have been nominated but their confirmations are being held up by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. Biden recently nominated an ambassador to Ecuador and has yet to nominate ambassadors to the Dominican Republic, as well as Colombia — the strongest ally of the United States in the region which recently elected its first leftist president. Chile’s ambassador was recently confirmed after the position was vacant for close to four years. (https://news.yahoo.com/almost-dozen-u-ambassadors-latin-130525067.html) Finding candidates has become more difficult over the years because both the vetting and the confirmation processes have become more complex, and could become tedious and frustrating for the nominees. With Biden’s nominations to the region, partisan politics in Congress and what some have described as the administration foot-dragging have also complicated the confirmation process, even while they were still in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Newsline: U.S. Passport Renewal Is Coming Online

Following the success of a limited pilot program for online passport renewal this summer, the U.S. State Department says it plans to fully launch an online passport renewal option for the general public in early 2023. The shift, which for many will eliminate the need for piles of paperwork and hours spent waiting in line at passport offices, is meant to offer relief after the pandemic created two years of extensive delays and backlogs for passport seekers. The online renewal option was created following a December 2021 executive order from President Joe Biden, who demanded the federal government “design and deliver services in a manner that people of all abilities can navigate.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/travel/online-passport-renewal.html) An initial pilot program was launched in February for federal government employees and contractors. After that closed, a second program opened Aug. 2 for 25,000 members of the public; it closed to applicants on Aug. 12. State Department officials say they plan to initiate a third pilot program for a limited number of applicants later in September, and while they don’t yet have a specific date for launching the system for all Americans, they say they intend to do so by early 2023.