US to Unveil High-tech B-21 Stealth Bomber

An American B-1B bomber during joint exercises between the United States and South Korea (archive - AFP)
An American B-1B bomber during joint exercises between the United States and South Korea (archive - AFP)
TT

US to Unveil High-tech B-21 Stealth Bomber

An American B-1B bomber during joint exercises between the United States and South Korea (archive - AFP)
An American B-1B bomber during joint exercises between the United States and South Korea (archive - AFP)

The US Air Force on Friday will unveil its new B-21 Raider, a high-tech stealth bomber that can carry nuclear and conventional weapons and is designed to be able to fly without a crew on board.

The B-21 -- which is on track to cost nearly $700 million per plane and is the first new US bomber in decades -- will gradually replace the B-1 and B-2 aircraft, which first flew during the Cold War.

"The B-21 will be the backbone of our future bomber force. It will possess the range, access and payload to penetrate the most highly-contested threat environments and hold any target around the globe at risk," US Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told AFP.

The first B-21 flight is expected to take place next year, and the Air Force plans to buy at least 100 of the aircraft, Stefanek said.

Manufacturer Northrop Grumman said six of the planes are currently in different stages of assembly and testing at its facility in Palmdale, California, where the unveiling will take place.

Many specifics of the aircraft are being kept under wraps, but the plane should offer significant advances over existing bombers in the US fleet.

Among the new capabilities offered by the B-21 is the potential for uncrewed flight. Stefanek said the aircraft is "provisioned for the possibility, but there has been no decision to fly without a crew."

- 'Designed to evolve' -
The plane also features an "open architecture," which is meant to allow easier and quicker upgrades.

Amy Nelson, a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, said the B-21 is "designed to evolve."

"The 'open architecture' allows for the future integration of improved software (including for autonomy) so the aircraft doesn't become obsolete as quickly," she said.

"The B-21 is much fancier than its predecessors -- truly modern. Not only is it dual-capable (unlike the B-2), which means it can launch nuclear or conventionally armed missiles, it can launch long- and short-range missiles," Nelson added.

Like the F-22 and F-35 warplanes, the B-21 will feature stealth technology, which minimizes an aircraft's signature through both its shape and the materials it is constructed from, making it harder for adversaries to detect.

The technology has been around for decades, but Northrop said the plane will feature the "next generation of stealth" and that it is employing unspecified "new manufacturing techniques and materials" on the B-21.

The "Raider" portion of the aircraft's name honors the 1942 US bomber raid on Tokyo led by lieutenant colonel James Doolittle -- the first American strike on Japan's homeland following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the previous year.



Armenia's Government: Almost All of Nagorno-Karabakh's People Have Left

Armenian refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh travel in a car loaded with their belongings on the road between Goris and Yerevan on September 30, 2023. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo / AFP)
Armenian refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh travel in a car loaded with their belongings on the road between Goris and Yerevan on September 30, 2023. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo / AFP)
TT

Armenia's Government: Almost All of Nagorno-Karabakh's People Have Left

Armenian refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh travel in a car loaded with their belongings on the road between Goris and Yerevan on September 30, 2023. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo / AFP)
Armenian refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh travel in a car loaded with their belongings on the road between Goris and Yerevan on September 30, 2023. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo / AFP)

An ethnic Armenian exodus has nearly emptied Nagorno-Karabakh of residents since Azerbaijan attacked and ordered the breakaway region’s militants to disarm, the Armenian government said Saturday.

Nazeli Baghdasaryan, the press secretary to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, said 100,417 people had arrived in Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh, which had a population of around 120,000 before Azerbaijan reclaimed the region in a lightning offensive last week.

A total of 21,043 vehicles had crossed the Hakari Bridge, which links Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, since last week, Baghdasaryan said. Some lined up for days because the winding mountain road that is the only route to Armenia became jammed.

The departure of more than 80% of Nagorno-Karabakh's population raises questions about Azerbaijan’s plans for the enclave that was internationally recognized as part of its territory. The region's separatist ethnic Armenian government said Thursday it would dissolve itself by the end of the year after a three-decade bid for independence.

Pashinyan has alleged the ethnic Armenian exodus amounted to “a direct act of an ethnic cleansing and depriving people of their motherland.” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry strongly rejected the characterization, saying the mass migration by the region's residents was “their personal and individual decision and has nothing to do with forced relocation.”

In a related development, Azerbaijani authorities on Friday arrested the former foreign minister of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist government, presidential advisor David Babayan, Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s Office said Saturday.

Babayan's arrest follows the Azerbaijani border guard's detention of the former head of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist government, State Minister Ruben Vardanyan, as he tried to cross into Armenia on Wednesday.

The arrests appear to reflect Azerbaijan’s intention to quickly enforce its grip on the region after the military offensive.


Putin Marks Anniversary of Annexation of Ukrainian Regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a video celebrating the anniversary of the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a video celebrating the anniversary of the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
TT

Putin Marks Anniversary of Annexation of Ukrainian Regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a video celebrating the anniversary of the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a video celebrating the anniversary of the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday insisted that the residents of four Ukrainian regions that Moscow annexed a year ago “made their choice — to be with their Fatherland.”

In an address released in the early hours to mark the first anniversary of the annexation, Putin insisted that it was carried out “in full accordance with international norms.”

He also claimed that residents of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions had again expressed their desire to be part of Russia in local elections earlier this month. Russia’s Central Election Commission said the country’s ruling party won the most votes.

"Just as a year ago in the historic referendums, people again expressed and confirmed their will to be with Russia and supported their countrymen who, through their labor and real actions, proved worthy of the people's trust," he said in a video of just over four minutes issued at midnight.

Putin reiterated his stance that Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine saved people from nationalist leaders in Kyiv who had unleashed a "full-scale civil war" and "terror against those who think differently.”

The West has denounced both the referendum votes carried out last year and the recent ballots as a sham. The votes were held as Russian authorities attempted to tighten their grip on territories Moscow illegally annexed a year ago and still does not fully control.

A concert was held in Red Square on Friday to mark the anniversary, but Putin did not participate.

The address came after Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday it would enlist 130,000 men for compulsory military service this fall, beginning Oct. 1, in most regions of the country. It announced it would for the first time begin enlisting residents of the annexed territories as part of its twice-yearly military conscription campaign.

Russia says conscripts are not deployed to what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, or to serve in the annexed territories. However, after their service, conscripts automatically become reservists, and Russia has previously deployed reservists to Ukraine.

In Ukraine, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell referenced the anniversary of the regions being “illegally annexed” by Russia in a video recorded during an unannounced visit to the Black Sea port city of Odesa on Saturday. Speaking from the city’s Transfiguration Cathedral, severely damaged in a Russian missile strike in July, Borrell reiterated the EU’s support for Ukraine.

“Odesa is a beautiful historic city. It should be in the headlines for its vibrant culture and spirit. Instead, it marks the news as frequent target of Putin’s war,” the EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy chief wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Meanwhile, the governor of Ukraine’s partly occupied southern Zaporizhzhia region, Yurii Malashko, said five people were wounded on Saturday in two missile strikes on the village of Matviivka, located on the northeastern outskirts of the regional capital, also called Zaporizhzhia.

Air defenses shot down 30 out of 40 Iranian-made kamikaze drones aimed at the Odesa, Mykolaiv and Vinnytsia provinces overnight, the Ukrainian air force said Saturday.

Vinnytsia regional Gov. Serhii Borzov said that air defenses shot down 20 drones over his central Ukrainian region, but that a “powerful fire” broke out in the town of Kalynivka when a drone struck an unspecified infrastructure facility.


New York Stunned, Swamped by Record-breaking Rainfall

A man clears debris from a drain as a car make their way through floodwater in Brooklyn, New York on September 29, 2023. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)
A man clears debris from a drain as a car make their way through floodwater in Brooklyn, New York on September 29, 2023. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)
TT

New York Stunned, Swamped by Record-breaking Rainfall

A man clears debris from a drain as a car make their way through floodwater in Brooklyn, New York on September 29, 2023. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)
A man clears debris from a drain as a car make their way through floodwater in Brooklyn, New York on September 29, 2023. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

One of New York's wettest days in decades left the metropolitan area stunned and swamped Friday after heavy rainfall knocked out several subway and commuter rail lines, stranded drivers on highways, flooded basements and shuttered a terminal at LaGuardia Airport for hours.

Some 8.65 inches (21.97 centimeters) of rain had fallen at John F. Kennedy Airport by nightfall Friday, surpassing the record for any September day set during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.

Parts of Brooklyn saw more than 7.25 inches (18.41 centimeters), with at least one spot recording 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) in a single hour, according to weather and city officials.

More downpours were expected Saturday, The Associated Press reported.

The deluge came two years after the remnants of Hurricane Ida dumped record-breaking rain on the Northeast and killed at least 13 people in New York City, mostly in flooded basement apartments.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams declared states of emergency and urged people to stay put if possible. But schools were open, students went to class and many adults went to work, only to wonder how they would get home.

Virtually every subway line was at least partly suspended, rerouted or running with delays. Metro-North commuter rail service from Manhattan was suspended for much of the day but began resuming by evening. The Long Island Rail Road was snarled, 44 of the city's 3,500 buses became stranded and bus service was disrupted citywide, transit officials said.


Israeli's Nano-X Settles US SEC Charges over Costs of Flagship Imaging Device

Israeli flag seen during anti-government protest in Jerusalem - File/EPA/ABIR SULTAN
Israeli flag seen during anti-government protest in Jerusalem - File/EPA/ABIR SULTAN
TT

Israeli's Nano-X Settles US SEC Charges over Costs of Flagship Imaging Device

Israeli flag seen during anti-government protest in Jerusalem - File/EPA/ABIR SULTAN
Israeli flag seen during anti-government protest in Jerusalem - File/EPA/ABIR SULTAN

Nano-X Imaging and its founder Ran Poliakine agreed to pay nearly $1.1 million to settle US Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing the Israeli medical imaging company of negligently misleading investors about the cost to make its flagship product.

Poliakine was accused of claiming in 2020 and 2021 that Nano-X could mass-produce Nanox.ARC, purportedly a lower-cost alternative to existing X-ray devices, for $8,000 to $12,000 each, while ignoring higher estimates provided by company executives, including engineering executives, Reuters reported.

The SEC said Nano-X also touted the misleadingly low estimate before and after its August 2020 initial public offering, which raised $165 million.

Poliakine was Nano-X's chief executive at the time of the misleading statements, and is now non-executive chairman, the SEC said.

Without admitting or denying wrongdoing, Nano-X and Poliakine agreed to pay respective civil fines of $650,000 and $150,000, and Poliakine will pay $267,000 in disgorgement plus interest.


Armenia Asks World Court to Order Azerbaijan to Withdraw Troops from Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenians at a Red Cross registration center on the border with Azerbaijan (EPA)
Armenians at a Red Cross registration center on the border with Azerbaijan (EPA)
TT

Armenia Asks World Court to Order Azerbaijan to Withdraw Troops from Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenians at a Red Cross registration center on the border with Azerbaijan (EPA)
Armenians at a Red Cross registration center on the border with Azerbaijan (EPA)

Armenia has asked the World Court to order Azerbaijan to withdraw all its troops from civilian establishments in Nagorno-Karabakh and provide the United Nations access, the court said on Friday.

The World Court, formally known as the International Court of Justice, in February ordered Azerbaijan to ensure free movement through the Lachin corridor to and from the disputed region, in what then was an intermediate step in legal disputes with neighbouring Armenia.

More than three quarters of the 120,000-strong population of the ethnic Armenian breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh had fled by Friday afternoon after defeat by Azerbaijan last week.

In a request for provisional measures submitted on Thursday, Armenia asked the court to reaffirm the orders it gave Azerbaijan in February and to order it to refrain from all actions directly or indirectly aimed at displacing the remaining ethnic Armenians from the region, Reuters reported.

Some international experts have said the exodus of ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh meets the conditions for the war crime of "deportation or forcible transfer", or even a crime against humanity.

The United States and others have called on Baku to allow international monitors into Karabakh, amid concerns about possible human rights abuses. Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing in Karabakh, something Baku strongly denies.

Azerbaijan has invited a United Nations mission to visit Nagorno-Karabakh "in the coming days", the foreign ministry said on Friday.

The World Court in The Hague is the UN court for resolving disputes between countries. Its rulings are binding, but it has no direct means of enforcing them.


Cyprus Considers Sheltering Some Armenian Refugees if Needed

An aerial view of the tent camp for Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh arriving to Armenia in Goris, in Syunik region, Armenia, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Armenian officials say more than 70% of Nagorno-Karabakh's original population have fled the region for Armenia. (AP Photo)
An aerial view of the tent camp for Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh arriving to Armenia in Goris, in Syunik region, Armenia, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Armenian officials say more than 70% of Nagorno-Karabakh's original population have fled the region for Armenia. (AP Photo)
TT

Cyprus Considers Sheltering Some Armenian Refugees if Needed

An aerial view of the tent camp for Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh arriving to Armenia in Goris, in Syunik region, Armenia, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Armenian officials say more than 70% of Nagorno-Karabakh's original population have fled the region for Armenia. (AP Photo)
An aerial view of the tent camp for Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh arriving to Armenia in Goris, in Syunik region, Armenia, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Armenian officials say more than 70% of Nagorno-Karabakh's original population have fled the region for Armenia. (AP Photo)

European Union member Cyprus on Friday said it was considering ways to host, if needed, displaced ethnic Armenians who had fled Azerbaijan's war-ravaged breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

More than three-quarters of the Armenian population of 120,000 had fled by Friday after a lightning defeat by Azerbaijani forces. The enclave had broken away in the 1990s, Reuters reported.

Cyprus traditionally has close ties with Armenia, and has a minority Armenian Christian population represented in parliament.

"The Cypriot government maintains an open corridor for the Armenian people and in that framework is ready to offer immediate humanitarian aid," the Cypriot Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Cyprus is considering, among other things, ways to host a number of displaced Armenians in our country should that be deemed necessary."

There have been Armenians in Cyprus for centuries. Many trace their roots back to Armenian people or orphans forced to flee mass killings under the Ottoman Empire in 1915, which some governments today consider genocide.


Azerbaijan Says it Invited UN Mission to Visit Karabakh in Coming Days

Volunteers hand out water and food to ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh as they cross the border with Azerbaijan, near the village of Kornidzor, Armenia, 29 September 2023. EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV
Volunteers hand out water and food to ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh as they cross the border with Azerbaijan, near the village of Kornidzor, Armenia, 29 September 2023. EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV
TT

Azerbaijan Says it Invited UN Mission to Visit Karabakh in Coming Days

Volunteers hand out water and food to ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh as they cross the border with Azerbaijan, near the village of Kornidzor, Armenia, 29 September 2023. EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV
Volunteers hand out water and food to ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh as they cross the border with Azerbaijan, near the village of Kornidzor, Armenia, 29 September 2023. EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV

Azerbaijan has invited a United Nations mission to visit Nagorno-Karabakh "in the coming days", the foreign ministry said on Friday, amid a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians from the region following a lightning Azerbaijani military offensive.
The United States and others have called on Baku to allow international monitors into Karabakh due to concerns about possible human rights abuses. Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing in Karabakh, something Baku strongly denies.
"The visit will allow (the mission) to become acquainted with the current humanitarian activities being carried out by Azerbaijan in the region," the ministry said in a statement.
"In addition, the group members will be shown the process of rebuilding certain infrastructure, disarmament and confiscation of ammunition from illegal Armenian armed forces, as well as the dangers posed by mines," it said.
Earlier, an Azerbaijani government official said media would also be allowed to visit the region, which is internationally viewed as part of Azerbaijan but which had been run by an ethnic Armenian breakaway state since the 1990s.


More than 70% of Nagorno-Karabakh's Population Flees

A local rides a horse (R, back) as ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh cross the border with Azerbaijan on a bus with their belongings, near the village of Kornidzor, Armenia, 29 September 2023. EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV
A local rides a horse (R, back) as ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh cross the border with Azerbaijan on a bus with their belongings, near the village of Kornidzor, Armenia, 29 September 2023. EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV
TT

More than 70% of Nagorno-Karabakh's Population Flees

A local rides a horse (R, back) as ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh cross the border with Azerbaijan on a bus with their belongings, near the village of Kornidzor, Armenia, 29 September 2023. EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV
A local rides a horse (R, back) as ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh cross the border with Azerbaijan on a bus with their belongings, near the village of Kornidzor, Armenia, 29 September 2023. EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV

More than 70% of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh has fled the ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan for neighboring Armenia, the Armenian government said Friday, as the enclave's separatist government said it will dissolve itself by the end of the year after a three-decade bid for independence.

Armenian officials said that 84,770 people had left Nagorno-Karabakh by Friday morning out of a total population of around 120,000.

The mass exodus that began Sunday raises questions about Azerbaijan’s plans for Nagorno-Karabakh following its lightning offensive last week to reclaim the breakaway region, and demand that its militants disarm and its separatist government disband.

Some people have lined up for days to get out of Nagorno-Karabakh as the only road to Armenia quickly filled up with vehicles, creating a major traffic jam on the winding mountain road.

Armenian Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan said that some people, including the elderly, had died while on the road to Armenia, because they were “exhausted due to malnutrition, left without even taking medicine with them, and were on the road for more than 40 hours.”

On Thursday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan noted the departure of ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh and alleged it was “a direct act of an ethnic cleansing and depriving people of their motherland.” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry strongly rejected Pashinyan’s accusations, calling the departure of Armenians “their personal and individual decision and has nothing to do with forced relocation.”

In the 1990s, the Azerbaijani population was itself expelled from Nagorno-Karabakh and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced within Azerbaijan. As part of its “Great Return” program, the government in Baku has already relocated Azerbaijanis to territories recaptured from Nagorno-Karabakh forces in a 2020 war.

Analysts believe Azerbaijan could expand the program and resettle Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijanis, while stating that ethnic Armenians could stay or exercise a right to return in order to “refute accusations that Karabakh Armenians have been ethnically cleansed,” Broers said.

A decree signed by the region’s separatist president, Samvel Shakhramanyan, cited a Sept. 20 agreement to end the fighting under which Azerbaijan will allow the “free, voluntary and unhindered movement” of Nagorno-Karabakh’s residents to Armenia.

On Thursday, Azerbaijani authorities charged Ruben Vardanyan, the former head of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist government, with financing terrorism, creating illegal armed formations and illegally crossing a state border. He was detained on Wednesday by Azerbaijani border guards as he was trying to leave Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia along with tens of thousands of others.


Switzerland Tightens Sanctions over Iran Drone Deliveries to Russia

A handout photo made available by the State Emergency Service shows Ukrainian rescuers putting out a fire of industrial storage after shock drone debris fell on it, in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Ukraine, 19 September 2023 amid the Russian invasion. EPA/STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE HANDOUT
A handout photo made available by the State Emergency Service shows Ukrainian rescuers putting out a fire of industrial storage after shock drone debris fell on it, in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Ukraine, 19 September 2023 amid the Russian invasion. EPA/STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE HANDOUT
TT

Switzerland Tightens Sanctions over Iran Drone Deliveries to Russia

A handout photo made available by the State Emergency Service shows Ukrainian rescuers putting out a fire of industrial storage after shock drone debris fell on it, in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Ukraine, 19 September 2023 amid the Russian invasion. EPA/STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE HANDOUT
A handout photo made available by the State Emergency Service shows Ukrainian rescuers putting out a fire of industrial storage after shock drone debris fell on it, in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Ukraine, 19 September 2023 amid the Russian invasion. EPA/STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE HANDOUT

Switzerland adopted further sanctions in connection with Iran's drone deliveries to Russia, in line with European Union measures, the government said in a statement on Friday.

The sale, supply, export and transit of components used for the manufacture and production of drones is now prohibited, and targeted financial and travel sanctions against persons and entities connected with support for Iran's drone program are in place, added Switzerland's Federal Council.

The United States on Wednesday placed sanctions on entities and people based in several countries for aiding the Iranian attack drone program, which Washington accuses of supplying such weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine.

The US Treasury said it put sanctions on five entities and two people who were part of a network helping procure sensitive parts - including servomotors, which help control position and speed - for Iran's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program.

The network facilitated shipments and financial transactions for the Revolutionary Guard Corps' procurement of such motors used in Iran's Shahed-136 drones, it said, adding that a motor procured by the network was found recently in the remains of a Russia-operated Shahed-136 drone shot down in Ukraine.


China to Resume Visa-free Policies to Spur Inbound Travel

People visit a lantern display in Victoria Park in Hong Kong on September 29, 2023 to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP)
People visit a lantern display in Victoria Park in Hong Kong on September 29, 2023 to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP)
TT

China to Resume Visa-free Policies to Spur Inbound Travel

People visit a lantern display in Victoria Park in Hong Kong on September 29, 2023 to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP)
People visit a lantern display in Victoria Park in Hong Kong on September 29, 2023 to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP)

China will resume visa-free policies and consider adding more countries to its visa-exemption list to help boost the country's post-pandemic tourism business, according to a policy document released on Friday.

More international flights will be resumed or added, China's State Council said.

In a statement posted on the central government's website, it said visa-free policies and visa assurances on arrival would be promoted as well as smoother immigration clearances for cruises and self-driving tourists.

The government also called for enhanced tax-rebate services such the creation of more tax-rebate shops.