Scholz Defends Germany’s Caution on Sending Heavy Arms to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, speaks to the media, with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, not seen in photo, during a joint press conference in Tokyo, Thursday, April 28, 2022. (AP)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, speaks to the media, with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, not seen in photo, during a joint press conference in Tokyo, Thursday, April 28, 2022. (AP)
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Scholz Defends Germany’s Caution on Sending Heavy Arms to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, speaks to the media, with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, not seen in photo, during a joint press conference in Tokyo, Thursday, April 28, 2022. (AP)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, speaks to the media, with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, not seen in photo, during a joint press conference in Tokyo, Thursday, April 28, 2022. (AP)

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday rejected criticism that Germany was not showing leadership in western efforts to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons to repel Russia's invasion, saying that he'd rather be cautious than make hasty decisions.

Scholz is under pressure at home and abroad to supply Ukraine with heavy arms such as tanks and howitzers and support an immediate EU embargo on Russian energy imports to strip President Vladimir Putin of hard currency that helps him finance the war.

"I take my decisions fast and in concert with our partners," Scholz told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview. "I find hasty actions and maverick German efforts questionable."

In a U-turn, Germany approved on April 26 the delivery of "Gepard" anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, a step backed by 55% of Germans who in an opinion poll said Europe's biggest economy should supply Ukraine with such arms.

However, the decision did not help reverse public perception of Scholz as being indecisive and lacking leadership. An opinion poll published in Bild am Sonntag showed that 54% were unsatisfied with Scholz's handling of the crisis. His approval rating fell to 32%, the poll showed.

Fearing Russia could broaden the war to countries other than Ukraine, some of Germany's partners in the NATO military alliance had expressed discontent with Scholz's initial hesitancy on arming Ukraine.

Others like Poland are unhappy with Germany's opposition to an EU embargo on Russian gas imports.

The Greens and Free Democrats, junior coalition partners to Scholz's Social Democrats, are more keen on providing more military assistance to Ukraine.

Scholz has had to balance their demands with those of left-leaning members of his party who say delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine risks provoking a Russian military response in a third country and sparking a broader conflict.

Moscow calls its actions a "special operation" to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.



Biden to Return to Washington amid Iran Threats Against Israel

US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One en route to Delaware, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, US, April 12, 2024. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy
US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One en route to Delaware, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, US, April 12, 2024. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy
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Biden to Return to Washington amid Iran Threats Against Israel

US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One en route to Delaware, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, US, April 12, 2024. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy
US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One en route to Delaware, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, US, April 12, 2024. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

US President Joe Biden will return to Washington on Saturday afternoon to consult with his national security team a day after saying that he expects an Iranian attack against Israel "sooner, rather than later."
Biden cut his weekend trip to Delaware early, the White House said Saturday, to discuss events in the Middle East. Tehran has vowed to retaliate for Israel's attack on Iran's embassy compound last week in Damascus that killed a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' overseas Quds Force and six other officers.

On Friday, Biden warned Iran against retaliation even while predicting the attack may be imminent. "We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed," he said.

Commandos from Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel Saturday in the latest attack between the two countries.


Ukraine's Army Says Eastern Front Under Intense Russian Assault

A destroyed Soviet-era Moskvich car is seen in the yard of a house which was struck by missiles in the town of Selydove, Donetsk region, on April 12, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)
A destroyed Soviet-era Moskvich car is seen in the yard of a house which was struck by missiles in the town of Selydove, Donetsk region, on April 12, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)
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Ukraine's Army Says Eastern Front Under Intense Russian Assault

A destroyed Soviet-era Moskvich car is seen in the yard of a house which was struck by missiles in the town of Selydove, Donetsk region, on April 12, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)
A destroyed Soviet-era Moskvich car is seen in the yard of a house which was struck by missiles in the town of Selydove, Donetsk region, on April 12, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)

Ukraine's army chief said on Saturday the situation on the eastern front had worsened in recent days as Russia has intensified its armored assaults and battles rage for control of a village west of the devastated city of Bakhmut.

The statement by Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi more than two years since Russia's invasion reflected the grim mood in Kyiv as vital US military aid that Kyiv expected to receive months ago remains stuck in Congress.

Syrskyi said he travelled to the area to stabilize the front as Russian assault groups using tanks and armored personnel carriers took advantage of dry, warm weather that has made it easier to maneuver.

"The situation on the eastern front in recent days has grown considerably more tense. This is linked primarily to the significant activation of offensive action by the enemy after the presidential elections in Russia," he wrote on the Telegram app, according to Reuters.

Since President Vladimir Putin won a new term in a stage-managed mid-March election, Russia has stepped up its attacks on Ukraine and unleashed three massive aerial strikes on its energy system, pounding power plants and substations.
The slowdown in military assistance from the West has left Ukraine more exposed to aerial attacks and heavily outgunned on the battlefield. Kyiv has made increasingly desperate appeals for supplies of air defense missiles in recent weeks.
Moscow's forces, Syrskyi said, were taking significant losses during their attacks in the east, but were also making tactical gains.
Social media channels reported the fall of Ukraine's eastern village of Bohdanivka to the west of the occupied city of Bakhmut, prompting Kyiv's defense ministry to deny them.
But it acknowledged fierce fighting in the area and said Russian assault groups had reached the village's northern outskirts overnight. "Bohdanivka is now under the control of the defense forces," it said.

The settlement lies a few kilometers northeast of the town of Chasiv Yar, a Kyiv-controlled stronghold that Russia has been trying to reach after seizing the town of Avdiivka in February to the south.

Russia's defense ministry said on Saturday its forces had captured Pervomaiske, a village to the south also located in Ukraine's Donetsk region where Moscow has focused its offensive operations for months.

Moscow said its troops had improved their tactical position on the front line there after capturing the village 8 kilometers (4.97 miles) southwest of occupied Avdiivka. Kyiv did not immediately comment on the status of Pervomaiske.

Syrskyi said Russian armored assault groups were attacking on the fronts of Lyman as well as Bakhmut and using dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers to try to break through lines on the Pokrovsk front.


Israel: Iran is Committing Piracy

FILED - 07 January 2024, Israel, Jerusalem: Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz, welcomes German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa
FILED - 07 January 2024, Israel, Jerusalem: Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz, welcomes German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa
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Israel: Iran is Committing Piracy

FILED - 07 January 2024, Israel, Jerusalem: Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz, welcomes German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa
FILED - 07 January 2024, Israel, Jerusalem: Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz, welcomes German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa

Teheran is conducting piracy and should be sanctioned for it, Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Saturday, after Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz.

"The Ayatollah regime of Khamenei is a criminal regime that supports Hamas' crimes and is now conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law," Katz said. "I call on the European Union and the free world to immediately declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guards corps as a terrorist organization and to sanction Iran now."

Earlier, an Israeli military spokesperson said Iran will bear consequences if it escalates violence in the region.

"Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further," Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a statement. "Israel is on high alert. We have increased our readiness to protect Israel from further Iranian aggression. We are also prepared to respond."

The Iranian state-run IRNA news agency reported that a Guards helicopter had boarded and taken into Iranian waters the Portuguese flagged MSC Aries.

The Aries is leased by international shipping line MSC from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, Zodiac said in a statement, adding that MSC is responsible for all vessel activities. Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.


Iran Guards Seize MSC Aries Vessel 'Linked to Israel'

An American shipping vessel. Reuters file photo
An American shipping vessel. Reuters file photo
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Iran Guards Seize MSC Aries Vessel 'Linked to Israel'

An American shipping vessel. Reuters file photo
An American shipping vessel. Reuters file photo

Iran's state news agency IRNA said on Saturday that its Revolutionary Guards had seized the MSC Aries vessel it said was "linked to Israel" and it was being transferred to Iran's territorial waters.

A Guards navy special forces helicopter boarded the Portuguese flagged vessel and seized it, IRNA added.

UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said the vessel had been seized 50 nautical miles (92 km) northeast of the Fujairah, an area close to the Strait of Hormuz that forms the entrance to the Gulf.

A British maritime security company, Ambrey, reported a "boarding" incident at the same location but without giving further details.

Marine tracking sites said the vessel was the MSC Aries of Zodiac Maritime, an international shipping company partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

Iran has threatened to retaliate for suspected Israeli airstrikes on its consulate in Syria's capital Damascus on April 1 that killed seven Revolutionary Guards officers including two senior commanders.

US President Joe Biden said on Friday he expected Iran to attack Israel "sooner, rather than later" and warned Tehran not to proceed.


Sydney Knife Attacker Shot Dead after Killing 5

13 April 2024, Australia, Sydney: Emergency services are seen at Bondi Junction after multiple people were stabbed inside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center in Sydney. Photo: Steve Markham/AAP/dpa
13 April 2024, Australia, Sydney: Emergency services are seen at Bondi Junction after multiple people were stabbed inside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center in Sydney. Photo: Steve Markham/AAP/dpa
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Sydney Knife Attacker Shot Dead after Killing 5

13 April 2024, Australia, Sydney: Emergency services are seen at Bondi Junction after multiple people were stabbed inside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center in Sydney. Photo: Steve Markham/AAP/dpa
13 April 2024, Australia, Sydney: Emergency services are seen at Bondi Junction after multiple people were stabbed inside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center in Sydney. Photo: Steve Markham/AAP/dpa

An attacker who fatally knifed five people in a Sydney mall was shot dead by police in Sydney's beachside suburb of Bondi on Saturday, police said, as hundreds fled the scene.
The assailant was shot by a police officer after he engaged with nine people in the busy Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center, police said.

"She discharged a firearm and that person is now deceased. I am advised that there are five victims who are now deceased as a result of the actions of this offender," New South Wales Police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke told a press conference.

Police have no indication of the man's motive.

Emergency services were called to the mall just before 4 p.m. (0600 GMT) after the stabbing reports, police said.

Eight people, including a child, had been taken to hospital, said a New South Wales Ambulance spokesperson.

Reese Colmenares, an eyewitness who hid in a hardware store with 20 others when people started running out of the mall, said she saw a baby with stab wounds being taken to an ambulance.

“The mother was terrified, the mother was sad, just holding (and) comforting the baby," she told Reuters.

Two other witnesses told Reuters they heard shots fired.

“Even 20 minutes after people were rushed out of the mall, I saw SWAT teams of people sweeping the surrounding streets,” one witness said.
The other said they saw a woman lying on the ground and took shelter in a jewelry store.

An eyewitness described the police officer shooting the attacker to state broadcaster ABC.

"If she did not shoot him, he would have kept going, he was on the rampage," said the man, who did not give his name. "She went over and was giving him CPR. He had a nice big blade on him. He looked like he was on a killing spree."

Several posts on social media showed crowds fleeing the mall and police cars and emergency services rushing to the area.

"Our hearts go out to those injured and we offer our thanks to those caring for them as well as our brave police and first responders," Australian Prime Minister Antony Albanese posted on social media site X.


1 killed, 10 Injured in Cable Car Accident in Southern Türkiye

This handout photograph taken and released on April 12, 2024 by Turkish news agency DHA (Demiroren News Agency) shows rescue teams conducting a rescue operation and helping injured people after a cable car cabin crashed into a fallen cable pole in Konyaalti district of Antalya. (Photo by Handout / DHA (Demiroren News Agency) / AFP)
This handout photograph taken and released on April 12, 2024 by Turkish news agency DHA (Demiroren News Agency) shows rescue teams conducting a rescue operation and helping injured people after a cable car cabin crashed into a fallen cable pole in Konyaalti district of Antalya. (Photo by Handout / DHA (Demiroren News Agency) / AFP)
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1 killed, 10 Injured in Cable Car Accident in Southern Türkiye

This handout photograph taken and released on April 12, 2024 by Turkish news agency DHA (Demiroren News Agency) shows rescue teams conducting a rescue operation and helping injured people after a cable car cabin crashed into a fallen cable pole in Konyaalti district of Antalya. (Photo by Handout / DHA (Demiroren News Agency) / AFP)
This handout photograph taken and released on April 12, 2024 by Turkish news agency DHA (Demiroren News Agency) shows rescue teams conducting a rescue operation and helping injured people after a cable car cabin crashed into a fallen cable pole in Konyaalti district of Antalya. (Photo by Handout / DHA (Demiroren News Agency) / AFP)

One person was killed and 10 others were injured on Friday in the southern Turkish province of Antalya after a cable car cabin collided with a broken pole and burst open, the interior ministry said on Saturday.

Twenty-four cabins were stranded in the air at 5:23 p.m. (1423 GMT) on Friday. Sixteen hours later, more than 60 people were still stranded in the remaining nine cabins in the air, the ministry said. One hundred and twelve people had been rescued.

None of the people waiting to be rescued had critical injuries or were in poor health, Disaster and Emergency Management Authority chairman Okay Memis told reporters at the scene, adding that they aimed to complete rescue work before sunset.

In a statement on social media platform X, the interior ministry said seven helicopters and more than 500 rescue workers were carrying out rescue efforts.

A video released by the interior ministry showed rescue personnel tied to safety ropes climbing into cabins.

The state-run Anadolu Agency identified the deceased as a 54-year-old Turkish man.

According to the information on its website, the cable car has 36 cabins with a capacity of six people each, and it takes an average of nine minutes to go uphill to the Tunektepe facility with panoramic views of the city of Antalya.


Pakistani Police Search for Gunmen after Abduction and Killings

Children take a camel ride along a street during the second day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in Quetta, Pakistan on April 11, 2024. (Photo by Banaras KHAN / AFP)
Children take a camel ride along a street during the second day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in Quetta, Pakistan on April 11, 2024. (Photo by Banaras KHAN / AFP)
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Pakistani Police Search for Gunmen after Abduction and Killings

Children take a camel ride along a street during the second day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in Quetta, Pakistan on April 11, 2024. (Photo by Banaras KHAN / AFP)
Children take a camel ride along a street during the second day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in Quetta, Pakistan on April 11, 2024. (Photo by Banaras KHAN / AFP)

Security forces are searching for gunmen who killed eight people after abducting them from a bus on a highway in southwestern Pakistan, a police official said Saturday, Earlier, the same attackers killed two people in another car they forced to stop.

No one has claimed responsibility for the Friday night attack in Baluchistan province, which has long been the scene of an insurgency by separatists fighting for independence.

Deputy Commissioner Habibullah Mosakhail said the gunmen set up a blockade, then stopped the bus and went through the passengers’ ID cards. They took eight people with them, all from the eastern Punjab province, fleeing into the mountains, he said.

Police later recovered eight bullet-ridden bodies under a bridge about 5 kilometers from the highway. Earlier on Friday, the same gunmen had opened fire at a vehicle that failed to stop for their blockade, killing two and wounding six.

A search for the perpetrators was underway, Mosakhail said. The bus was heading from the provincial capital of Quetta to Taftan, a town bordering Iran.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the attack, expressing his “deep sorrow and regret over this shocking incident.” He offered his condolences to the families of the victims and said he stood by them in their hour of grief, according to a statement from his office.

“The perpetrators of this incident of terrorism and their facilitators will be punished,” Sharif said.

Ethnic Baloch insurgents have previously claimed responsibility for similar killings in the region, which is home to deep-water Gwadar sea port being developed by neighboring China. The insurgents have also targeted Chinese nationals and their interests.


US Ex-diplomat Sentenced to 15 Years for Spying for Cuba

People gather in front of the James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building where the trial of the former US diplomat who served as US ambassador to Bolivia, Victor Manuel Rocha, is being held, in Miami, Florida, USA, 12 April 2024. EPA/CRISTOBAL HERRERA-ULASHKEVICH
People gather in front of the James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building where the trial of the former US diplomat who served as US ambassador to Bolivia, Victor Manuel Rocha, is being held, in Miami, Florida, USA, 12 April 2024. EPA/CRISTOBAL HERRERA-ULASHKEVICH
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US Ex-diplomat Sentenced to 15 Years for Spying for Cuba

People gather in front of the James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building where the trial of the former US diplomat who served as US ambassador to Bolivia, Victor Manuel Rocha, is being held, in Miami, Florida, USA, 12 April 2024. EPA/CRISTOBAL HERRERA-ULASHKEVICH
People gather in front of the James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building where the trial of the former US diplomat who served as US ambassador to Bolivia, Victor Manuel Rocha, is being held, in Miami, Florida, USA, 12 April 2024. EPA/CRISTOBAL HERRERA-ULASHKEVICH

A former US diplomat was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Friday after admitting to acting as an agent of Cuba in what the Justice Department has called one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the US government.

Victor Manuel Rocha, who served as US ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002, pleaded guilty to two charges including acting as an illegal foreign agent. He was initially charged in December.

Rocha, 73, secretly supported Cuba’s ruling Communist Party and aided the country’s intelligence gathering against Washington for more than four decades, including during a 20-year career in the State Department, according to US prosecutors.
"Today's plea brings an end to more than four decades of betrayal and deceit by Mr. Rocha," David Newman, a senior national security official at the US Justice Department said during a press conference in Miami. "For most of his life, Mr. Rocha lived a lie."

Rocha admitted his decades of work for Cuba and boasted about his ability to avoid detection in a series of meetings in 2022 and 2023 with an undercover FBI agent who posed as a representative of Cuba’s foreign intelligence service, according to a criminal complaint filed in Miami federal court.

“What we have done...it’s enormous. More than a grand slam,” Rocha told the undercover agent, according to the complaint.

A lawyer for Rocha did not respond to requests for comment. Rocha agreed to plead guilty as part of a deal with federal prosecutors that requires him to divulge details of his interactions with Cuban intelligence.
But US officials said they may never know the full extent of Rocha's cooperation with Havana.

Rocha sought out positions that would give him access to sensitive information and influence over US foreign policy, according to prosecutors.


Russia Summons French Ambassador Over Minister's 'Unacceptable' Comments

The Russian flag waves in the wind on the rooftop of the Consulate General of Russia in San Francisco, California, US, September 2, 2017. (Reuters)
The Russian flag waves in the wind on the rooftop of the Consulate General of Russia in San Francisco, California, US, September 2, 2017. (Reuters)
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Russia Summons French Ambassador Over Minister's 'Unacceptable' Comments

The Russian flag waves in the wind on the rooftop of the Consulate General of Russia in San Francisco, California, US, September 2, 2017. (Reuters)
The Russian flag waves in the wind on the rooftop of the Consulate General of Russia in San Francisco, California, US, September 2, 2017. (Reuters)

Russia on Friday summoned the French ambassador to Moscow following "unacceptable" comments by French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Sejourne on Monday said that France had no interest in talking to the Kremlin, a few days after a telephone conversation between Russian and French defense ministers ended in divergent accounts.

French ambassador Pierre Levy "was informed about the unacceptable character of such statements, which have nothing to do with reality," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement, denouncing a "deliberate act" that "aimed to undermine the possibility of any dialogue between the two countries".

A French diplomatic source told AFP on Friday: "The Russian ministry, as usual, does not accept that we correct its lies.

"The minister recalled the reality of the exchanges and the Russian authorities' attempt at manipulation following the call from the armed forces minister."

It is the latest in series of spats between the two countries, whose relations have deteriorated since the start of the year, against the backdrop of the prolonged conflict in Ukraine.

After a conversation between the two countries' defence ministers on April 3, Russia said it "hoped" that the French secret services were not involved in the Moscow concert hall attack claimed by Islamic State group, which killed 144 people on March 22.

France had initiated the meeting in a bid to pass on "useful information" to Russia about the attack.

French president Emmanuel Macron reacted angrily to the Russian suggestion, denouncing "threatening" comments.

French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu told television station LCI late Friday that the anti-terrorist cooperation between the two countries "is not suspended" but "it is not working in the partnership manner that it should."

He said France would continue to speak with Russia "when it is useful. It is called defending the interests of France."

In January, Russia claimed to have killed 60 French "mercenaries" in Kharkiv, in northeast Ukraine, while Paris denounced "a coordinated manoeuvre" of disinformation emanating from Moscow.

Russia also announced that it had summoned Slovenian ambassador Darja Bavdaz Kuret on Friday to notify her of the expulsion of a Slovenian diplomat "in return" for a similar decision taken by Ljubljana in March against a Russian representative.

On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it had done the same with Austrian ambassador Werner Almhofer following the expulsion of two Russian diplomats by Vienna. Moscow expelled an Austrian diplomat in response.


China Summons Japanese, Philippine Diplomats over Negative Comments

Printed Chinese and Japanese flags are seen in this illustration, July 21, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Printed Chinese and Japanese flags are seen in this illustration, July 21, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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China Summons Japanese, Philippine Diplomats over Negative Comments

Printed Chinese and Japanese flags are seen in this illustration, July 21, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Printed Chinese and Japanese flags are seen in this illustration, July 21, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

China summoned Japanese and Philippine diplomats on Friday to express dissatisfaction over negative comments about it aired during a summit of the leaders of the United States, Japan and Philippines, the foreign ministry said.

The United States and its allies, including Japan, have been building up their militaries to counter what they see as a growing threat from China in areas such as the busy waterway of the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

At this week's summit in Washington, the three leaders discussed China's aggressive actions in the disputed South China Sea, besides unveiling a wide range of pacts to boost security and economic ties.

"We strongly deplore and strongly oppose the remarks," a foreign ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, told a regular press briefing in response to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's speech to US Congress in which he named China the biggest challenge the world.

China strongly opposes these countries' small-group politics and any acts that instigate and drive up tension, she said about the summit.

"China opposes forming exclusive circles in the region," Mao said, Reuters reported.

A ministry official, Liu Jinsong, met a Japanese embassy official, Akira Yokochi, to make "solemn representations" about the negative comments, the ministry said in a statement, voicing China's serious concern and strong dissatisfaction.

Liu also made "solemn representations" to the Philippine ambassador to China Jaime FlorCruz, who was summoned by the ministry over the Southeast Asian country's "negative words and deeds" related to China during the summit.

US President Joe Biden and Kishida had laid out a series of projects, from codeveloping missiles to manned moon landings, while condemning China's escalatory behavior in the South China Sea region.

The two also announced plans to upgrade their military alliance, including the US military command in Japan and more joint development of defence equipment.

In a separate summit with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Biden warned of Beijing's South China Sea moves.