Khamenei Makes Public Appearance after Absence, Amid Heated Debate on His Successor

Iran's Supreme Leader leader Ali Khamenei (Khamenei's Official website)
Iran's Supreme Leader leader Ali Khamenei (Khamenei's Official website)
TT

Khamenei Makes Public Appearance after Absence, Amid Heated Debate on His Successor

Iran's Supreme Leader leader Ali Khamenei (Khamenei's Official website)
Iran's Supreme Leader leader Ali Khamenei (Khamenei's Official website)

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made a public appearance after over a week of absence and participated in a religious ceremony with university students on Saturday.

Khamenei's official website published his pictures during the ceremony, and state television showed him standing, addressing the attendees in a steady voice about the significance of the Arbaeen anniversary.

The New York Times said Friday, quoting four people familiar with Khamenei's health, that the Supreme Leader canceled all meetings and public appearances last week after falling gravely ill and is currently on bed rest under observation by a team of doctors.

The adviser to Iran's negotiating team in the nuclear talks, Mohammad Marandi, condemned the newspaper's report, saying it is biased. Marandi's father heads Khamenei's medical team.

Meanwhile, two sources close to Khamenei denied to Reuters on Friday that his health had deteriorated, responding to questions about his health.

Khamenei had not appeared in public since he met followers in Tehran on Sept. 3, sparking rumors on social media that he was ill.

Last week, official Iranian agencies circulated reports of his meeting with a crowd of athletes, but his official website did not publish any picture or news of the meeting.

He also did not meet with members of the Assembly of Experts, a meeting that takes place every six months after 48-hour sessions between influential clerics.

The 88-member council is involved in political and religious activities and selects a successor to the Supreme Leader in the event of his death or failure to perform his duties.

A former president of Iran and protégé of Supreme Leader Khomeini, Khamenei assumed the position of the country's top religious, political, and military authority in 1989.

- Khamenei's succession

The absence of a meeting between the Supreme Leader and the Assembly of Experts sparked a debate about Khamenei's son, Mojtaba, being groomed to be the next leader.

On Aug. 8, the Iranian reformist leader, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, warned of a plan for "hereditary leadership."

Mousavi, who has been under house arrest since February 2011, referred to the possibility of Khamenei's son succeeding him.

Khamenei's office did not comment on Mousavi's warning, but the Revolutionary Guards' media vigorously attacked him because of his criticism of the Religious Leader's interference in the Syrian war without addressing the issue of succession.

Later, Mousavi's warning was taken seriously after the Qom Seminary website referred to him for the first time as Ayatollah Mojtaba Khamenei.

"Ayatollah" is a religious title given to the clerics of the first rank according to Iran's Constitution, which was considered an indication that Mojtaba might inherit the position.

- Obstruction of Religious References

Following the cancellation of the Khamenei meeting with the Assembly of Experts, reports claimed an "incomplete quorum" after 30 members did not attend the conference.

A report claimed Khamenei's son met with several high-ranking authorities in the Qom Seminary, including Makarem Shirazi.

According to the sources, the religious references stressed the necessity of transforming Wilayat al-Faqih into a leadership shura, not led by one individual, which created a shock.

They noted that consultations among some members of the Assembly led to boycotting the meeting, which is held every six months.

- Shadow Person

Mojtaba's role in his father's office during the 2005 presidential elections was highlighted when reformist leader Mehdi Karroubi warned against his interference in the elections in favor of one of the candidates, in reference to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the 2009 elections, Mojtaba faced accusations of suppressing protesters and interfering in the polls.

In December 2018, Karroubi sent a strong message to Khamenei, asking him to take responsibility for his actions over 30 years, saying he did not prevent Mojtaba's interference in elections.

- Similarities

The idea of ​​succession gained traction after increased chances of President Ebrahim Raisi assuming the position of the third leader.

Raisi won the presidential elections last year without being contested by a real competitor. The presidency was his second prominent position after Khamenei issued a decree naming him the head of the judiciary.

The Revolutionary Guards media began using the title "Ayatollah" for Raisi, and in April 2016, commanders of the Revolutionary Guards submitted a report about the internal and regional activities of the Guards to Raisi.

The move was interpreted as "a pledge of allegiance from the IRGC commanders to a rising candidate who is a Supreme Leader in training."

Last August, Khamenei vigorously defended the government's performance against criticism of worsening the economic conditions and prolonging talks to restore the nuclear deal.

Despite the similarities between Raisi and Khamenei before he took office, some analysts believe that Raisi's current performance could lead to a decline in his chances of reaching the highest position in the country.

- The Reformist

The grandson of the first Supreme Leader, Hassan Khomeini, who has close ties to the reformist camp, is a third candidate for the position.

Khomeini enjoys the support of religious circles close to his grandfather's establishment, especially those concerned about Khamenei's rule style.

He tried to boost his role in religious circles by running for the Assembly of Experts elections in February 2016, but he was excluded for an incomplete file.

Khomeini again sought a political position during the 2021 presidential elections, but Khamenei said his candidacy would not be in the regime's interests.

Supporters of Khomeini's approach, including supporters of a "leadership shura," are relying on Hassan's candidacy.

Former President Mohammad Khatami, former President Hassan Rouhani, and Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri are the most prominent supporters of this movement.



Tens of Thousands at Risk from Flooding After Ukraine Dam Collapse 

Streets are flooded in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023 after the walls of the Kakhovka dam collapsed overnight. (AP)
Streets are flooded in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023 after the walls of the Kakhovka dam collapsed overnight. (AP)
TT

Tens of Thousands at Risk from Flooding After Ukraine Dam Collapse 

Streets are flooded in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023 after the walls of the Kakhovka dam collapsed overnight. (AP)
Streets are flooded in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023 after the walls of the Kakhovka dam collapsed overnight. (AP)

About 42,000 people are at risk from flooding in Russian- and Ukrainian-controlled areas along the Dnipro River after a dam collapsed, as the UN aid chief warned of "grave and far-reaching consequences".

Ukraine and Russia blame each other for the collapse of the massive dam on Tuesday, which sent floodwaters across a swathe of Ukraine's war zone and forced thousands to flee.

Ukraine said Russia committed a deliberate war crime in blowing up the Soviet-era Nova Kakhovka dam, which powered a hydroelectric station. The Kremlin blamed Ukraine, saying it was trying to distract from the launch of a major counteroffensive that Russia says is faltering.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council that the dam breach "will have grave and far-reaching consequences for thousands of people in southern Ukraine on both sides of the front line through the loss of homes, food, safe water and livelihoods".

"The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will only become fully realized in the coming days," he said.

No deaths were initially reported, but US spokesperson John Kirby said the flooding had probably caused "many deaths".

Ukrainian officials estimated about 42,000 people were at risk from the flooding, which is expected to peak on Wednesday.

In Kherson city, about 60 km (37 miles) downstream from the dam, water levels rose by 3.5 meters (11-1/2 feet) on Tuesday, forcing residents to slog through water up to their knees to evacuate, carrying plastic bags full of possessions and small pets in carriers.

"Everything is submerged in water, all the furniture, the fridge, food, all flowers, everything is floating. I do not know what to do," Oksana, 53, said when asked about her house.

Buses, trains and private vehicles were marshalled to carry people to safety in about 80 communities threatened by flooding.

In Kherson, cracks of incoming artillery sent people trying to flee running for cover. In the evening, Reuters reporters heard four incoming artillery blasts near a residential neighborhood where civilians were evacuating.

Residents in flooded Nova Kakhovka on the Russian-controlled bank of the Dnipro told Reuters that some had decided to stay despite being ordered out.

"They say they are ready to shoot without warning," said one man, Hlib, describing encounters with Russian troops.

The Kazkova Dibrova zoo on the Russian-held riverbank was completely flooded and all 300 animals were dead, a representative said via the zoo's Facebook account.

"More and more water is coming every hour. It's very dirty,"

Yevheniya, a woman in Nova Kakhovka, said by telephone.

The United States said it was uncertain who was responsible, but the deputy US ambassador to the UN, Robert Wood, told reporters it would not make sense for Ukraine to destroy the dam and harm its own people.

The Geneva Conventions ban targeting dams in war because of the danger to civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address that his prosecutors had approached the International Criminal Court about the dam. Earlier, he said on Telegram that Russian forces blew up the power plant from inside.

"Residents are sitting on the roofs of their homes waiting to be rescued ... This is a Russian crime against people, nature and life itself," Oleksiy Kuleba, a senior official on Zelenskiy's staff, said on Telegram.

The dam supplies water to a wide area of southern Ukrainian farmland, including the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, as well as cooling the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

Satellite images taken on Tuesday afternoon by Maxar Technologies showed houses and other buildings submerged, many with only their roofs showing.

Maxar said the images of more than 2,500 square km (965 square miles) between Nova Kakhovka and the Dniprovska Gulf, southwest of Kherson city on the Black Sea, showed numerous towns and villages flooded.

The UN nuclear watchdog said the Zaporizhzhia plant, upriver on the reservoir, should have enough water to cool its reactors for "some months" from a separate pond.

As Kyiv prepares for its long-awaited counteroffensive, some military analysts said the flooding could benefit Russia by slowing or limiting any Ukrainian advance along that part of the front line.

In a boost for Ukraine's military, Zelenskiy said he had received "a serious, powerful" offer from countries ready to provide F-16 fighter jets.

"Our partners know how many aircraft we need," Zelenskiy was quoted as saying in a statement on his website. "I have already received an understanding of the number from some of our European partners ... It is a serious, powerful offer."

Kyiv now awaited a final agreement with its allies, including "a joint agreement with the United States," Zelenskiy said.

It is not clear which of Ukraine's allies are ready to provide it with the jets.


Milley Says Fighting in Ukraine Has Increased, Will Continue for Lengthy Time

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US General Mark A Milley attends a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as part of the 79th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Normandy landings, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US General Mark A Milley attends a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as part of the 79th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Normandy landings, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
TT

Milley Says Fighting in Ukraine Has Increased, Will Continue for Lengthy Time

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US General Mark A Milley attends a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as part of the 79th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Normandy landings, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US General Mark A Milley attends a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as part of the 79th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Normandy landings, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)

US Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Tuesday that fighting in Ukraine has increased, but he cautioned against reading too much into each day’s operations.

“There’s activity throughout Russian-occupied Ukraine and fighting has picked up a bit,” Milley said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France — the final resting place of almost 9,400 troops who died 79 years ago during the allied D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

Milley said it was up to Ukraine to announce whether its counteroffensive campaign has formally begun, but he said Ukrainian troops are ready for this fight.

“It’s our estimation that the Ukrainian military is well prepared for whatever they do — they choose to fight in the offensive fight or in the defense,” he said. "They’re well-prepared.”

But he also warned that as time goes on the fighting will vary.

“Like the Battle of Normandy or any other major battle, warfare is a give and take,” Milley said. “There will be days you see a lot of activity and there will be days you may see very little activity. There will be offensive actions and defense actions. So, this will be a back-and-forth fight for a considerable length of time.”

The US and allies and partners have been pouring billions of dollars in military weapons into Ukraine and have set up a wide range of combat training so Kyiv's forces can maintain that equipment and prepare for the long-anticipated counteroffensive.

Milley spoke as Ukrainian forces are widely seen to be moving forward with a new surge of fighting in patches along more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) of front line in the east and south. The troops were moving to end what has been a winter-long battlefield stalemate and punch through Russian defensive lines in southeast Ukraine after 15 months of war.

Punctuating that fighting was the stunning collapse Tuesday of a dam in southern Ukraine, triggering floods, endangering crops in the country’s breadbasket and threatening drinking water supplies. Both sides blamed the other, as they scrambled to evacuate residents.

The surge in fighting comes after a long winter of preparation. Nearly weekly at times, the US and allies pumped millions of rounds of artillery and other ammunition into Ukraine, along with increasingly lethal air defense systems, including Patriot missile batteries, tanks, drones and other weapons.

Looking back over the past year, Milley said Ukrainian forces defended their country well from the start of the invasion in February through the middle of the summer, and then did two successful offensive operations in Kharkiv and Kherson. Milley said he believes the training and weapons supplied by the allies over the winter have prepared Ukraine for the coming fight.

“A lot of training went into that, a lot of supplies, a lot of ammunition was provided by other countries to include the United States,” said Milley. “They’ve been training now we think pretty well in combined arms operations. So I think they’re prepared for what they think they need to do, no matter what type of operation they run.”

Standing in front of rows of white crosses at the cemetery, Milley spoke just a few minutes after he and other top US and allied military leaders laid wreaths and saluted the gathering of the last surviving World War II veterans attending the ceremony. The veterans, some of whom had stormed Omaha Beach, were almost all in their late 90s. But as Taps played, many rose from their wheelchairs to stand for the tribute.

Reflecting on their fight, Milley said there is a thread of similarity in the wars.

“You can’t really compare that campaign to what’s happening in size and scale and scope ... in Ukraine. But the purpose is very similar, which is the Ukrainians, obviously, their objective is to liberate the Russian-occupied Ukraine,” Milley said.


US Slaps Sanctions on Iranian Targets in Action over Tehran’s Missile, Military Programs

The Department of the Treasury's seal outside the Treasury Department building in Washington on May 4, 2021. (AP)
The Department of the Treasury's seal outside the Treasury Department building in Washington on May 4, 2021. (AP)
TT

US Slaps Sanctions on Iranian Targets in Action over Tehran’s Missile, Military Programs

The Department of the Treasury's seal outside the Treasury Department building in Washington on May 4, 2021. (AP)
The Department of the Treasury's seal outside the Treasury Department building in Washington on May 4, 2021. (AP)

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on over a dozen people and entities in Iran, China and Hong Kong, accusing the procurement network of supporting Iran's missile and military programs as Washington ramps up pressure on Tehran.

The US Treasury Department in a statement said the network conducted transactions and facilitated the procurement of sensitive and critical parts and technology for key actors in Iran’s ballistic missile development, including Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which is under US sanctions.

Among those hit with sanctions was Iran's defense attaché in Beijing, Davoud Damghani, whom the Treasury accused of coordinating military-related procurements from China for Iranian end-users.

“The United States will continue to target illicit transnational procurement networks that covertly support Iran’s ballistic missile production and other military programs,” Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in the statement.


Fire in the Area of Tehran’s Bazaar Contained, No Casualties Reported 

A fire broke out in a glue warehouse in the Seyed Vali bazaar, located in Tehran's Grand Bazaar. (ISNA)
A fire broke out in a glue warehouse in the Seyed Vali bazaar, located in Tehran's Grand Bazaar. (ISNA)
TT

Fire in the Area of Tehran’s Bazaar Contained, No Casualties Reported 

A fire broke out in a glue warehouse in the Seyed Vali bazaar, located in Tehran's Grand Bazaar. (ISNA)
A fire broke out in a glue warehouse in the Seyed Vali bazaar, located in Tehran's Grand Bazaar. (ISNA)

A fire that broke out in a glue warehouse in the Seyed Vali bazaar, located in Tehran's Grand Bazaar, has been contained, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported on Tuesday.

No casualties have been reported so far or further details given.


Iran Presents its First Hypersonic Ballistic Missile

The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo
The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo
TT

Iran Presents its First Hypersonic Ballistic Missile

The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo
The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

Iran presented what officials described as its first domestically-made hypersonic ballistic missile on Tuesday, the official IRNA news agency reported, an announcement likely to heighten Western concerns about Tehran's missile capabilities.

Iranian state media published pictures of the missile named Fattah at a ceremony attended by President Ebrahim Rahisi and commanders of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps, Reuters said.

"The precision-guided Fattah hypersonic missile has a range of 1,400 km and it is capable of penetrating all defense shields," Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guards' aerospace force, was quoted as saying by Iranian state media.

Hypersonic missiles can fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound and on a complex trajectory, which makes them difficult to intercept. Last year, Iran said it had built a hypersonic ballistic missile which can maneuver in and out of the atmosphere. State TV said Iran's Fattah missile can target "the enemy's advanced anti-missile systems and is a big generational leap in the field of missiles".

"It can bypass the most advanced anti-ballistic missile systems of the United States and the Zionist regime, including Israel's Iron Dome," Iran's state TV said.

Fattah's top speed reached mach 14 levels (15,000km/h), it added.

Despite US and European opposition, Iran has said it will further develop its defensive missile program. However, Western military analysts say Iran sometimes exaggerates its missile capabilities.

Concerns about Iran's ballistic missiles contributed to then-US President Donald Trump's decision in 2018 to ditch Tehran's 2015 nuclear pact with six major powers.

Trump reimposed US sanctions on Iran after exiting the nuclear pact, leading Tehran to resume previously banned nuclear work and reviving US, European and Israeli fears that Iran may seek an atomic bomb. Iran has consistently denied any such ambition. Indirect talks between Tehran and US President Joe Biden's administration to salvage the nuclear deal have stalled since last September. Israel, which Iran refuses to recognize, opposes efforts by world powers to revive Tehran's nuclear deal and has long threatened military action if diplomacy fails.


Protests in France as Unions Make Last-ditch Bid to Resist Higher Retirement Age

Protesters march during a demonstration in Nantes, western France, Saturday, March 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzalez)
Protesters march during a demonstration in Nantes, western France, Saturday, March 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzalez)
TT

Protests in France as Unions Make Last-ditch Bid to Resist Higher Retirement Age

Protesters march during a demonstration in Nantes, western France, Saturday, March 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzalez)
Protesters march during a demonstration in Nantes, western France, Saturday, March 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzalez)

French unions are seeking to reignite resistance to President Emmanuel Macron’s higher retirement age with what may be a final surge of nationwide protests and scattered strikes Tuesday.

A third of flights were canceled at Paris’ Orly Airport because of strikes, and about 10% of trains around France were disrupted. Some 250 marches, rallies and other actions are planned around the country on the 14th day of national protest since January over the pension reform, The Associated Press said.

Macron’s move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 — and force the measure through parliament without a vote — inflamed public emotions and triggered some of France’s biggest demonstrations in years.

But the intensity of anger over the pension reform has ebbed since the last big protests on May 1, and since the measure became law in April. Some see Tuesday's actions as a last big show of opposition for the movement.

Macron says the reform was needed to finance the pension system as the population ages. Unions and left-wing opponents say the changes hurt poorer workers and have argued for higher taxes on the wealthy and employers instead.

Organizers of Tuesday's protests hope to rally support ahead of a possible parliamentary debate Thursday on a bill to repeal the new retirement age.

Legislators from centrist opposition group LIOT proposed the bill to put back the retirement age to 62. While Macron's centrist party doesn't have a majority in the National Assembly, it has allied with the conservative Republicans party to push back the opposition's efforts.


Deputy Governor of Afghan Province Killed in Car Bombing

In this photo taken on June 4, 2023, an Afghan boy stands atop his house in Kandali village in Sholgara district of Balkh province. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)
In this photo taken on June 4, 2023, an Afghan boy stands atop his house in Kandali village in Sholgara district of Balkh province. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)
TT

Deputy Governor of Afghan Province Killed in Car Bombing

In this photo taken on June 4, 2023, an Afghan boy stands atop his house in Kandali village in Sholgara district of Balkh province. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)
In this photo taken on June 4, 2023, an Afghan boy stands atop his house in Kandali village in Sholgara district of Balkh province. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

The deputy governor of Afghanistan's northern Badakhshan province was killed by a car bomb on Tuesday, the provincial spokesperson said.

"Nissar Ahmad Ahmadi, with his driver, has been killed and six civilians were injured," said Mahzudeen Ahmadi, the head of the information office of Badakshan, a province in the far north of the country that shares a border with China and Tajikistan.

It was not clear who was behind the bombing, which was the first known major blast or attack on a Taliban official in Afghanistan in several weeks, Reuters reported.

The Taliban administration has been carrying out raids against members of ISIS, which had claimed several major attacks in urban centers.

ISIS has also targeted Taliban administration officials, including claiming the killing of the governor of northern Balkh province in an attack on his office in March.


Situation at Nuclear Plant Under Control After Dam Blast, Says Ukraine Atomic Agency 

A general view of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on March 29, 2023. (AFP)
A general view of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on March 29, 2023. (AFP)
TT

Situation at Nuclear Plant Under Control After Dam Blast, Says Ukraine Atomic Agency 

A general view of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on March 29, 2023. (AFP)
A general view of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on March 29, 2023. (AFP)

The destruction of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine poses a threat to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, but the situation at the facility is under control, Ukraine's state atomic power agency said on Tuesday.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Twitter it was closely monitoring the situation but that there was "no immediate nuclear safety risk at (the) plant" which is also in southern Ukraine.

Explosions at the Soviet-era Kakhovka dam in Russian-occupied territory on Tuesday unleashed floodwater across an area that is now a war zone, according to both Ukrainian and Russian forces who blamed each other for the destruction.

Energoatom said the Russian invaders had blown up the dam.

It said the water level of the Kakhovka Reservoir was rapidly lowering, posing an "additional threat" to the Russian-occupied facility - Europe's largest nuclear power plant - which both sides have blamed one another for shelling.

"Water from the Kakhovka Reservoir is necessary for the station to receive power for turbine capacitors and safety systems of the ZNPP (Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant)," Energoatom said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

"Right now the station's cooling pond is full: as of 8:00 a.m., the water level is 16.6 meters, which is sufficient for the station's needs."

"Currently, the situation at the ZNPP is under control, Ukrainian personnel are monitoring all indicators," it said.

The head of Ukraine's presidential administration on Tuesday described the blast as an "ecocide" committed by Russian forces. Russia blamed Ukraine for the incident.


Senior US, Chinese Diplomats Hold ‘Candid’ Talks To Avoid Escalation of Tensions 

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink leaves a hotel during his visit to Beijing, China June 6, 2023. (Reuters)
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink leaves a hotel during his visit to Beijing, China June 6, 2023. (Reuters)
TT

Senior US, Chinese Diplomats Hold ‘Candid’ Talks To Avoid Escalation of Tensions 

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink leaves a hotel during his visit to Beijing, China June 6, 2023. (Reuters)
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink leaves a hotel during his visit to Beijing, China June 6, 2023. (Reuters)

Senior US and Chinese diplomats held “candid and productive” talks in Beijing and agreed to keep open lines of communication to avoid tensions from spiraling into conflict, officials said Tuesday.

Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant US secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, was the most senior US official confirmed to have visited China on Monday since tensions between Washington and Beijing soared over the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon over the US in early February.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the time postponed a planned trip to China, and Beijing has since largely rebuffed attempts at official exchanges, though two top US and Chinese defense officials briefly interacted at a forum in Singapore over the weekend.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Kritenbrink and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu “had candid, constructive and fruitful communication on promoting the improvement of China-US relations and properly managing differences.”

Beijing said it had stated its “solemn position on Taiwan” — a self-ruled island China claims as its territory to be annexed by force if necessary — and other issues and that the two sides had agreed to maintain communication.

The US State Department also said the two officials held “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 US Navy on Sunday complained about an “unsafe interaction” in the Taiwan Strait, after a Chinese warship came within 150 yards (137 meters) of a US destroyer. And last month, a Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close to a US reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea, where Beijing shares overlapping territorial claims with other nations.

CIA Director William Burns last month reportedly took a secret trip to Beijing in another sign the two sides are interested in restoring communication through various channels.


China, Russia Launch Joint Air Patrol Amid Asia-Pacific Tensions 

A People's Republic of China (PRC) warship, identified by the US Indo-Pacific Command as PRC LY 132, crosses the path of US Navy destroyer USS Chung-Hoon as it was transiting the Taiwan Strait with the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Montreal June 3, 2023, in a still image from video. (Global News via Reuters)
A People's Republic of China (PRC) warship, identified by the US Indo-Pacific Command as PRC LY 132, crosses the path of US Navy destroyer USS Chung-Hoon as it was transiting the Taiwan Strait with the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Montreal June 3, 2023, in a still image from video. (Global News via Reuters)
TT

China, Russia Launch Joint Air Patrol Amid Asia-Pacific Tensions 

A People's Republic of China (PRC) warship, identified by the US Indo-Pacific Command as PRC LY 132, crosses the path of US Navy destroyer USS Chung-Hoon as it was transiting the Taiwan Strait with the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Montreal June 3, 2023, in a still image from video. (Global News via Reuters)
A People's Republic of China (PRC) warship, identified by the US Indo-Pacific Command as PRC LY 132, crosses the path of US Navy destroyer USS Chung-Hoon as it was transiting the Taiwan Strait with the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Montreal June 3, 2023, in a still image from video. (Global News via Reuters)

China and Russia conducted a joint air patrol on Tuesday over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea for a sixth time since 2019, coinciding with an increase in military maneuvers and drills by the United States and its allies in the Asia-Pacific.

The patrol is part of the two militaries' annual cooperation plan, China's defense ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

In China's last joint aerial patrol with Russia in November, South Korea scrambled fighter jets after Chinese H-6K bombers and Russian TU-95 bombers and SU-35 fighter jets entered its Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ).

Japan also scrambled jets after Chinese bombers and two Russian drones flew into the Sea of Japan.

An air defense zone is an area where countries demand that foreign aircraft take special steps to identify themselves. Unlike a country's airspace - the air above its territory and territorial waters - there are no international rules governing air defense zones.

In the May 2022 patrols, Chinese and Russian warplanes neared Japan's airspace as Tokyo hosted a Quad summit with the leaders of the United States, India and Australia, alarming Japan even though China said the flights were not directed at third parties.

China's increasing military assertiveness in the region has raised concern among its neighbors as well as their Western allies such as the United States. Since last week, the coast guard of the United States, Japan and the Philippines have held their first trilateral naval exercise in the South China Sea.

Over the weekend, a Chinese warship came within 150 yards (137 meters) of a US destroyer while the US and Canadian navies were conducting a joint exercise in the sensitive Taiwan Strait, prompting complaints about the safety of the maneuver.

Shortly before that, a video showed a Chinese fighter jet passing in front of a US plane's nose with the cockpit of the RC-135 shaking in the turbulence caused by the flight.