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Diplomacy

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Paraguay Vice President Hugo Velázquez Moreno said he will resign next week shortly after he was included on a U.S. corruption list for his alleged involvement in offering bribes to a public official. The inclusion of Velázquez on the corruption list, delivered by U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay Marc Ostfield Friday morning, rocked Paraguay’s political world not only due to Moreno’s role in President Mario Abdo Benítez’s administration but also because he was seen as a leading contender to become a presidential candidate for the Colorado Party in next year’s elections.

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Latvia and Estonia say they have left a Chinese-backed forum aimed at boosting relations with Eastern European countries. The move follows China's boosting of its relations with Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine is seen as a possible first step in a series of moves against countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. It also comes after Beijing launched economic and diplomatic retaliation against another Baltic state, Lithuania, after it expanded ties with the self-governing island democracy of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory and threatens to annex by force. China's increasingly assertive diplomacy and recent threatening military exercises near Taiwan have brought a sharp backlash from the U.S., the EU, Japan, Australia and others.

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European representatives have visited a small schoolhouse serving an impoverished Bedouin community in the occupied West Bank that is under threat of demolition by Israel. The EU funds such construction in order to help Palestinians maintain their presence in the 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control, where the military routinely demolishes homes and other structures built without hard-to-obtain permits. The EU representative who led the delegation says it’s “entirely unacceptable for the authorities of Israel to destroy this and demolish that.” The schoolhouse was built in January and currently serves 17 students. There was no comment from COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank.

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China has renewed its threat to attack Taiwan following almost a week of war games near the island, amid international condemnation and a stinging rebuke from the self-governing democracy's government. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Thursday said Taiwan's “collusion with external forces to seek independence and provocation will only accelerate their own demise and push Taiwan into the abyss of disaster." China's attempt at intimidation was prompted by a visit to the island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The U.S., Japan and allies have denounced the exercises. On Wednesday, Britain's government summoned Chinese Ambassador Zheng Zeguang to the Foreign Office to demand an explanation of ”Beijing’s aggressive and wide-ranging escalation against Taiwan."

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday rebuked Rwandan authorities over democracy and human rights concerns, saying the central African country may not reach its full potential without opening up political space and protecting freedoms. Blinken said the United States recognizes Rwanda’s incredibly difficult history of the 1994 genocide but believes that the criminalization of opposition political figures undermines the country's overall peace and stability. He was speaking in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, the last stop on his three-nation tour of Africa. Earlier Blinken toured a memorial for victims of Rwanda’s genocide, saying he was “moved by this memorial and inspired by the resilience of the survivors and the remarkable progress of this country.”

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The Justice Department says an Iranian operative has been charged in a plot to murder former Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton. Shahram Poursafi is identified by U.S. officials as a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He's wanted by the FBI on charges related to the murder-for-hire plot, which the U.S. assumes was in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike that killed a popular and powerful general in Iran. In a statement Wednesday, Bolton thanked the FBI and Justice Department for their work. He said Iran's rulers are "liars, terrorists, and enemies of the United States.” Iran's foreign ministry spokesman disputed the allegations.

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Sri Lanka's justice minister has submitted a proposed constitutional amendment to Parliament that would clip the powers of the president, a key demand of protesters calling for political reforms and solutions to the country’s economic crisis. The action came as former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled violent anti-government protests last month, was reportedly seeking to enter Thailand. A Thai Foreign Ministry spokesperson says he would be allowed entry but had not asked for political asylum. However, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha says Rajapaksa is seeking asylum in a third country, which he did not name. The proposed constitutional amendments would transfer some presidential powers to a constitutional council comprising lawmakers and respected non-politicians.

South Korea's government has stressed it will make its own decisions in strengthening its defenses against North Korean threats, rejecting Chinese calls that it continue the polices of Seoul’s previous government that refrained from adding more U.S. anti-missile batteries that are strongly opposed by Beijing. The differences between South Korea and China underscore a reemerging rift between the countries just a day after their top diplomats met in eastern China and expressed hope that the issue wouldn’t become a “stumbling stone” in relations.

A Chinese envoy says Australia’s recent change of government is a chance to “reset” its troubled relationship with China, but the new administration must “handle the Taiwan question with caution.” Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian said Wedesday he was “surprised” that Australia had signed a statement with the United States and Japan that condemned China’s firing of missiles into Japanese waters in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week. Xiao would not say when the live-fire military exercises near Taiwan might end. He told the National Press Club an announcement will be made at a “proper time.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry has accused Australia of "interfering in China’s internal affairs.”

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High in the Himalayas, the achingly beautiful territory of Kashmir has played a pivotal role in shaping the foreign policy of India, which has fought two wars with Pakistan over the region's sovereignty since the two countries gained independence from British colonial rule. As India celebrates 75 years of independence, New Delhi's focus has shifted significantly toward China. Again, the change is anchored in disputed Kashmir — this time in the Ladakh region where the two Asian giants are locked in a tense military standoff.

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The top South Korean and Chinese diplomats have pledged to develop closer relations and maintain stable industrial supply chains at a time of deepening rivalry between Beijing and Washington. South Korea is struggling to strike a balance between Washington and the increasingly assertive foreign policy of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government. Foreign Ministers Park Jin and Wang Yi, who are meeting in eastern China, separately called for developing relations based on their nations' successful commercial ties. Park and Wang gave no indication they discussed tension over last week’s visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory.

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A senior Russian diplomat says that Moscow’s decision to declare a freeze on U.S. inspections of its nuclear arsenals under a key arms control treaty was triggered by Washington’s push for a quick visit by inspectors. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday the U.S. demand for Russia to immediately allow an inspection trip under the New START treaty looked like an “open provocation.” He added that "a notice about the U.S. intention to perform an inspection on our territory in the nearest days became a trigger” for the Russian decision to freeze such inspections. The Biden administration had no immediate public response to the move, which came amid soaring U.S.-Russian tensions over Russia’s military action in Ukraine.

Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a frequent emissary in hostage negotiations, says he's hopeful about the chances of a two-for-two prisoner swap that could result in the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan. Richardson said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that in cases like this it's “proportional.” Richardson traveled to Russia ahead of the release by Moscow of Marine veteran Trevor Reed in an April prisoner swap. He declined to discuss the current status of negotiations with Russia over Griner or Whelan or to explain what role he may be playing in the talks.

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Nagasaki is paying tribute to the victims of the U.S. atomic bombing 77 years ago Tuesday. The mayor says Russia’s war on Ukraine showed the world that another nuclear attack is “a tangible and present crisis.” Mayor Tomihisa Taue, in his speech at the Nagasaki Peace Park, said nuclear weapons can be used as long as they exist, and the only way to save the future of humankind is their elimination. The United States made its second atomic attack on Aug. 9, 1945, on Nagasaki, killing 70,000, three days after it dropped the first one on Hiroshima that killed 140,000.

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The U.S. deputy secretary of state says the prime minister of the Solomon Islands “missed an important opportunity” by failing to attend a memorial service to mark the anniversary of a key World War II battle, amid concerns the South Pacific island nation is building closer ties with China. Wendy Sherman and U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy were among the dignitaries at a dawn service to commemorate the Battle of Guadalcanal. The Solomons prime minister denied he boycotted the event. Sherman says she expressed her displeasure. She says the prime minister repeated his assurance during her recent visit that there would be no Chinese base on the islands. She called the situation critical and says the U.S. will watch it very carefully.

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China says it is extending threatening military exercises surrounding Taiwan that have disrupted shipping and air traffic and substantially raised concerns about the potential for conflict. Military leaders say the exercises will include anti-submarine drills, apparently targeting U.S. support for Taiwan in the event of a potential Chinese invasion. China has said the exercises involving missile strikes, warplanes and ship movements crossing the midline of the Taiwan Strait are a response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island last week. China has ignored calls to calm the tensions, and there was no immediate indication when it would end what amounts to a blockade.

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Myanmar's ambassador to China has died. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed reports of his death. He did not say when the ambassador had died or what the cause of death was. Myo Thant Pe had been ambassador to China since 2019. China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the diplomat had dedicated himself to the development of relations between the two countries. China is one of Myanmar’s closest allies and has expressed unequivocal support for the country’s ruling military that seized power last year.

Today is Sunday, Aug. 7, the 219th day of 2022. There are 146 days left in the year.

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Israeli airstrikes have flattened homes in Gaza and Palestinian rocket barrages into southern Israel are persisting for a second day, raising fears of another major escalation in the Mideast conflict. Gaza’s health ministry said on Saturday that 24 people had been killed so far in the coastal strip, including six children and two women. The fighting began with Israel’s targeted killing of a senior commander of the militant Islamic Jihad group on Friday. Gaza’s Hamas rulers so far appear to be staying on the sidelines, keeping the conflict's intensity somewhat contained, for now. The Israeli military says an errant rocket fired Saturday by Palestinian militants killed civilians, including children, in northern Gaza.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says China should not hold talks on important global matters such as the climate crisis “hostage,” after Beijing cut off contacts with Washington in retaliation for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week. Blinken also said in a news conference Saturday in Manila that the U.S. aims to deescalate tensions, which have flared after China launched war drills just off Taiwan and took other retaliatory steps. Pelosi’s trip to the self-governed island outraged China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary. Blinken says China's shutting down cooperation on climate change “doesn’t punish the United States — it punishes the world.”

Cambodia’s foreign minister says efforts by Myanmar’s neighbors to help restore peace and normalcy to the strife-torn Southeast Asian nation were hindered by the country’s recent executions of four political activists. Prak Sokhonn, speaking in his capacity as special envoy to Myanmar of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, warned Saturday that further executions would force the regional grouping to reconsider how it engages with fellow member Myanmar. His remarks suggest that ASEAN is prepared to downgrade its engagement with Myanmar’s military government, whose top members are already not welcome at ASEAN meetings because of their failure to cooperate with a plan agreed upon last year to work toward restoring peace.

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China has cut off climate talks with the U.S. — imperiling future global climate negotiations, but not necessarily blunting the impacts of significant climate actions at home in both countries. The move from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs came Friday in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, along with cancellations in strategic and military talks. The move came less than three months before the next key international climate summit in November. Meanwhile, the U.S. is poised to pass its most ambitious ever clean-energy legislation later this year. Experts say that could influence China's future climate actions more than any negotiations.

Hiroshima is remembering the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing as officials including the United Nations chief warn against nuclear weapons buildup and the world fears another attack amid Russia’s war on Ukraine. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Saturday that nuclear weapons “guarantee no safety — only death and destruction.” Hiroshima Mayor Kazimi Matsui criticized nuclear powers for not taking more concrete steps toward a nuclear-free world. The Aug. 6, 1945 U.S. atomic bombing on Hiroshima killed 140,000. Another nuclear attack on Nagasaki killed 70,000 more.

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Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes on Gaza, killing at least 10 people, including a senior militant. That's according to Palestinian officials who spoke Friday. Israel says it targeted the Islamic Jihad militant group in response to an “imminent threat” following the recent arrest of another senior militant. Hours later, Palestinian militants launched a barrage of rockets as air-raid sirens wailed in Israel and the two sides drew closer to another all-out war. Islamic Jihad claimed to have fired 100 rockets. Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers have fought four wars and several smaller battles over the last 15 years.

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