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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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Western nations have made more pledges to send arms to Ukraine as Britain's Defense Ministry claimed that sanctions against Moscow are hurting Russian defense exports. On a day of give and take, the European Union’s full ban on Russian coal imports also kicked in Thursday. Britain and Denmark made additional military commitments to help Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion. Germany also is making what Chancellor Olaf Scholz described as a “massive” break with its past by committing to send weapons to the war-ravaged country. In another display of the West's loyalties, McDonald’s announced plans to start reopening some of its restaurants in Ukraine. The fast-food giant shuttered and sold hundreds of its Russian locations.

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The European Union says a new U.S. tax credit plan aimed at encouraging Americans to buy electric vehicles could discriminate against European producers and break world trade rules. The Inflation Reduction Act is nearing approval in Congress. It would grant a tax credit of up to $7,500 to lower the cost of an electric vehicle. To qualify, electric vehicles should contain a battery built in North America with minerals mined or recycled on the continent. But European Commission spokeswoman Miriam Garcia Ferrer said Thursday that the bill is “discriminatory, that it’s discriminating against foreign producers in relation to U.S. producers.” The U.S. plan aims to encourage domestic manufacturing and mining.

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China is criticizing a U.S. law to encourage processor chip production in the United States and reduce reliance on Asian suppliers as a threat to trade and an attack on Chinese business. The law signed this week by President Joe Biden promises grants and other aid to investors in U.S. chip factories. It responds in part to warnings that supplies might be disrupted if China attacks Taiwan, the world's leading high-end chip producer. Beijing claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory. China's Foreign Ministry says the U.S. chip law will “disrupt international trade and distort global semiconductor supply chains.” It says the law restricts business activity in China but gave no details.

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Several countries in Europe dependent on Russian energy are suffering another blow with confirmation that oil shipments have stopped through a critical pipeline. Russia’s state pipeline operator, Transneft, said it had stopped shipments through the southern branch of the Druzhba oil pipeline, which flows through Ukraine to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Transneft cited complications due to European Union sanctions for its action, saying its payment to the company’s Ukrainian counterpart was refused. It says the northern leg of the Druzhba pipeline, which runs through Belarus to Poland and Germany, was unaffected. EU leaders agreed in May to embargo most Russian oil imports but allowed shipments to certain countries in central Europe.

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Taiwan has warned that Chinese military drills aren’t just a rehearsal for an invasion of the self-governing island but also reflect ambitions to control large swaths of the western Pacific. The warning came as Taipei conducted its own exercises Tuesday to underscore it’s ready to defend itself. Angered by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan, China has sent military ships and planes across the midline that separates the two sides in the Taiwan Strait. It has also launched missiles into waters surrounding the island. The drills began Thursday. They have disrupted flights and shipping in one of the busiest zones for global trade.

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The birds no longer sing. The cows die. And if the people in this northern Myanmar forest complain, they too face the threat of death from militias. This forest is the source of key metallic elements known as rare earths, often called the vitamins of the modern world. Rare earths turn up in everything from hard drives to elevators, and are vital to the fast-growing field of green energy. But an AP investigation found their cost is environmental destruction, the theft of land and the funneling of money to brutal militias. The AP tied rare earths from Myanmar to the supply chains of 78 companies. Nearly all who responded said they took environmental protection and human rights seriously.

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Stocks are rising on Wall Street as investors prepare for a busy week of updates on inflation. The S&P 500 rose 0.4% in afternoon trading Monday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq also gained ground. Small-company stocks outpaced the broader market’s gains in a sign of investors' confidence in the economy. Retailers and communications stocks were among the biggest winners. Clean energy companies, including First Solar, are rising following Senate approval of Democrats’ big election-year economic package. The government will release its July report for consumer prices and wholesale prices later this week.

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Asian stock markets are mixed after strong U.S. jobs data cleared the way for more interest rate hikes and China reported its exports rose by double digits. Shanghai and Tokyo advanced while Hong Kong and Seoul retreated. Oil prices edged higher. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 declined on Friday after American employers added more jobs than expected in June. That undercut expectations a slowing economy might prompt the Fed to postpone or scale back plans for more rate hikes to cool inflation. Markets also have been rattled by Russia’s war on Ukraine and uncertainty about Chinese anti-virus curbs that have disrupted manufacturing and shipping. China’s exports in July surged 18% from a year earlier.

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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 says it is cutting off dialogue with the U.S. on a range of vital issues from climate change to military relations and anti-narcotics efforts in retaliation for a visit this week to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The measures announced Friday are the latest steps intended to punish Washington for allowing the visit to the island claimed by Beijing as its own territory — to be annexed by force if necessary. China also is firing missiles in military exercises off the coast of the island. U.S.-China expert Bonnie Glaser warns China may be heading toward changing the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, with results that are negative for both Taiwan and the U.S.

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Three more ships carrying thousands of tons of corn have left Ukrainian ports. The movement Friday is the latest sign that a negotiated deal to export grain trapped since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly six months ago is slowly moving forward. But major hurdles lie ahead to get food to the countries that need it most. While the shipments have raised hopes of easing a global food crisis, experts say much of the grain that Ukraine is trying to export is used for animal feed, not for people to eat. And the cargoes are not expected to have a significant impact on the global price of corn, wheat and soybeans.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has visited Russia for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They discussed a grain deal brokered by Turkey and the U.N., prospects for talks on ending hostilities in Ukraine, the situation in Syria and growing economic ties between Moscow and Ankara. Last month, Turkey and the U.N. helped broker agreements between Russia and Ukraine for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural products that have been stuck in its Black Sea ports since Moscow sent troops into the country. In a statement issued after Friday's talks that lasted four hours, Putin and Erdogan emphasized “the necessity of a complete fulfillment of the package deal reached in Istanbul.”

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Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministers have issued a joint statement after a series of meetings in the Cambodian capital, criticizing fellow member Myanmar for its lack of progress in ending violence there, but with weaker language than several countries had hoped for. Ahead of the meetings, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah accused Myanmar of “making a mockery" of a plan for peace proposed by the group. But in their final statement, the foreign ministers only ”expressed our concerns over the prolonged political crisis in the country" and said they were “deeply disappointed by the limited progress” in the implementation of the plan.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says China’s military exercises aimed at Taiwan, including missiles fired into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, represent a “significant escalation” and that he has urged Beijing to back down. China launched the drills following a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan that infuriated Beijing, which claims the self-governed island as its own territory. Blinken told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia that Pelosi’s visit was peaceful and did not represent a change in American policy toward Taiwan, accusing China of using it as a “pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait.”

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says African nations are free to buy grain from Russia but could face consequences if they trade in U.S.-sanctioned commodities such as Russian oil. Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, after a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni, a U.S. ally who has not criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has expressed sympathy with Moscow. Uganda is the U.S. official’s first stop on an African tour. Her trip comes a week after the Africa visit of Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, who dismissed charges that his country’s invasion of Ukraine is solely responsible for a dangerous food crisis in countries ranging from Somalia to South Sudan.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is stressing his country’s efforts to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian countries at a meeting with their foreign ministers, which comes as Beijing seeks to expand its influence in the region. Wang’s talks with top diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Thursday were held amid high tensions in the region, following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which has infuriated Beijing. In his opening remarks, Wang did not mention the situation but instead emphasized how China and Southeast Asian countries have strengthened cooperation in recent years.

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Asian shares are mostly higher as investors welcome encouraging economic data and quarterly earnings reports from big companies. Benchmarks rose Thursday across the region, including Japan, China, Australia and South Korea. The gains followed a strong rally on Wall Street. Jitters eased over the visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan after she left for South Korea and then later Japan, firm U.S. allies for decades. But analysts said some geopolitical risks remain, with China conducting military exercises near the self-ruled island that it claims as its own territory. Investors are also watching U.S. nonfarm payrolls for indications on hiring.

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is calling for calm in the Taiwan Strait, urging against any “provocative action” in the wake of a visit to Taipei by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that has infuriated Beijing. In a rare statement from the 10-nation group on such issues, some of whose members drift more toward China in allegiance and some toward the United States, ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia said Thursday that they were concerned the situation could “destabilize the region and eventually could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers.”

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The first grain ship to leave Ukraine under a Black Sea wartime deal has passed inspection in Istanbul and is heading on to Lebanon. Ukraine says 17 other vessels at its ports are loaded with grain and waiting permission to leave. There was no word yet, however, on when they could depart. Authorities said a joint civilian inspection team spent three hours Wednesday checking the cargo and crew on the ship Razoni. The wartime deal aimed to ease food security around the globe by creating a safe corridor across the Black Sea.

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Top Southeast Asian diplomats meeting in Cambodia’s capital are intensifying efforts to stop the escalating violence in Myanmar. It's one of many of the region's pressing, and often divisive, issues. It is the first in-person meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has weakened economies and complicated diplomacy. The meeting comes at a time of increased tensions between the United States and China, and as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to global increases in food and energy prices. Cambodia’s foreign minister said Wednesday that the region and the world had never before been hit with so many perils at once.

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China has blocked imports of citrus, fish and other foods from Taiwan in retaliation for a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but avoided disrupting one of the world’s most important technology and manufacturing relationships. Sanctions on Taiwanese processor chips for Chinese assemblers of smartphones and other electronics could send shockwaves through the global economy. Beijing has announced military exercises including artillery fire in waters near Taiwan following Pelosi's arrival in Taipei. That might delay or disrupt shipping. The potential disruption to trade and manufacturing adds to concerns that global economic growth might be weakening. Asian stock markets rose after there was no immediate sign of Chinese military action.

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