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United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Saturday he was deeply concerned by China’s unwillingness to engage on military crisis management, warning that talks are key to avoiding conflict.

The relationship between the United States and China is at its lowest point in decades, as they remain deeply divided over everything from the sovereignty of Taiwan to espionage and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s top security summit, Austin said that open lines of communication between US and Chinese defence and military leaders were essential to avoid conflict and bolster stability in the Asia-Pacific.

“I am deeply concerned that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries,” Austin told the meeting in Singapore.

“The more that we talk, the more that we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict.”

China’s Minister of National Defence Li Shangfu had this week declined an invitation to meet Austin at the security summit. Li, a general who has been sanctioned by the US, delivers his own speech on Sunday.
On Friday, the two shook hands on the sidelines of the conference but did not hold detailed talks, the Pentagon said.
“A cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for a substantive engagement,” Austin said.
Dialogue between the two countries has stalled since US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled a visit to China in February after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was tracked flying across the United States.

Liu Pengyu, spokesperson at the Chinese embassy in Washington, said on Friday in an emailed statement that communication between China and the US was conducive to a greater mutual understanding.

“However, now the US says it wants to speak to the Chinese side while seeking to suppress China through all possible means and continue imposing sanctions on Chinese officials, institutions and companies,” the statement said.

China will have bilateral talks with defence chiefs from a dozen countries at the summit, Lieutenant General He Lei, former vice president of the Academy of Military Sciences, said in comments published by state-backed Chinese newspaper the Global Times on Saturday.

Taiwan tensions
One of the thorniest security issues between the two superpowers is over the future of Taiwan, a democratically governed territory which Beijing wants to bring under its rule.
There are increasing concerns that China could invade Taiwan with the US drawn into any conflict.
Austin pointed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an example of “how dangerous our world would become if big countries could just invade their peaceful neighbours with impunity”.
He said the US was “deeply committed” to preserving the status quo in Taiwan and opposes unilateral changes from either side.
“Conflict is neither imminent nor inevitable. Deterrence is strong today and it’s our job to keep it that way,” Austin said.
Chinese Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting that Austin’s comments risk creating confrontation in the Asia-Pacific region, including over Taiwan.
“It (US) wants instability in Taiwan so that it can bring its soldiers to Taiwan, and earn money from selling military weapons to Taiwan,” said Zhao, a researcher at China’s Academy of Military Sciences.
US military officials have previously said that Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on his armed forces to develop the capabilities for a possible invasion of Taiwan by 2027.

“It doesn’t mean that he’s made a decision to do that,” Austin said in response to a question about Xi’s plans.
Under President Joe Biden, the US has been strengthening its ties with allies in Asia, including Australia, Japan, India, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Beijing has criticised a deal announced by Australia in March to buy US nuclear-powered submarines.
Australia is set to spend A$368bn over three decades on the submarine programme, part of a broader security pact with the US and Britain known as AUKUS.

AMMAN:: The wedding of Jordan’s crown prince to the scion of a prominent Saudi family began on Thursday in a palace celebration that drew massive crowds and a mood of excitement around the kingdom, while presenting the young Hashemite royal as a new player on the global stage. The marriage of Crown Prince Hussein, 28, and Saudi architect Rajwa Alseif, 29, drew a star-studded VIP list headlined by Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate.

Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein and Saudi Rajwa Alseif wave to well-wishers during their wedding ceremonies in Amman, Jordan, Thursday, June 1, 2023. (AP) Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania welcomed them and several other royals from around the world, as well as U.S. First Lady Jill Biden. A senior Kuwaiti official on Thursday attended wedding of the Jordanian Crown Prince Al-Hussein bin Abdullah II. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, accompanied by his spouse, attended the wedding in his capacity as the Representative of both His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah.

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Abdullah is the head of His Highness the Crown Prince Diwan. King Abdullah II and Queen Rania received the well wishers. The bride, wearing an elegant white dress, arrived at Zahran Palace in a 1968 Rolls-Royce Phantom V custom-made for the late Queen Zein al-Sharaf, the crown prince’s great grandmother.

The crown prince arrived earlier in full ceremonial military uniform with a gold-hilted saber. The families and their guests gathered in an open-air gazebo surrounded by landscaped gardens for a traditional Muslim wedding ceremony known as “katb al-ketab.” The celebrations hold deep significance for the region, emphasizing continuity in an Arab state prized for its longstanding stability and refreshing the monarchy’s image. It even could help Jordan forge a strategic bond with its oil-rich neighbor, Saudi Arabia. Crowds were gathering at huge screens set to livestream the wedding across the country, with many attendees waving flags and decked out in the white-and-red checkered scarves worn by Jordan’s ruling family, the Hashemites. At the ancient Roman amphitheater in the center of the capital, Amman, Jordanian singer Hussein Salman pumped up the crowds with congratulatory wedding ballads.

The 6,000-seat theater was almost completely full, as families sang along and children, with “Celebrating Hussein” painted on their cheeks, clapped wildly. “This is an important day because he is our future king,” said Ahmad al-Masri, an 18-year-old attending with his family. “All of Jordan is watching.” On Thursday morning, Saudi wedding guests and tourists – the men wearing white dishdasha robes and the women in brightly colored abayas – filtered through the sleek marbled lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman. Noura Al Sudairi, an aunt of the bride, was wearing sweatpants and sneakers on her way to breakfast. “We are all so excited, so happy about this union,” she said. “Of course it’s a beautiful thing for our families, and for the relationship between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”

Excitement over the nuptials – Jordan’s biggest royal event in years – has been building in the capital of Amman, where congratulatory banners of Hussein and his beaming bride adorn buses and hang over winding hillside streets. Shops had competing displays of royal regalia. Royal watchers speculated about which dress designer Alseif would select- still an official secret. “She looks like such a princess that I think she deserves him,” Suhair Afaneh, a 37-yearold businesswoman, said of the bride, lingering in front of a portrait of Hussein in a dark suit. “But so what, I’ll still be in love with him.” She contemplated buying Hussein’s portrait to hang in her bedroom but her nieces persuaded her that her husband might not approve. Jordan’s 11 million citizens have watched the young crown prince rise in prominence in recent years, as he increasingly joined his father, Abdullah, in public appearances.

Hussein has graduated from Georgetown University, joined the military and gained some global recognition speaking at the U.N. General Assembly. His wedding, experts say, marks his next crucial rite of passage. “It’s not just a marriage, it’s the presentation of the future king of Jordan,” said political analyst Amer Sabaileh. “The issue of the crown prince has been closed.”

KYIV: Russia fired a barrage of missiles at Kyiv on Monday sending panicked residents running for shelter in an unusual daytime attack on the Ukrainian capital following overnight strikes.
A series of explosions rang out in Kyiv on Monday as Russia targeted the city for the second time in 24 hours.
The latest barrages hit the pro-Western country as the Ukrainian capital was still recovering from an overnight on Saturday drone attack, the biggest since Russia’s invasion began in February last year.
AFP journalists heard at least 10 explosions from around 11:10am (local time) in Kyiv, starting just a few minutes after an air raid warning sounded.
Heavy barrage sparks panic as people run for shelter in a metro station
Authorities later said Ukrainian air defences had downed all the Russian missiles launched against the Kyiv region. One injured man was hospitalised, they said.
“A total of 11 missiles were fired: ‘Iskander-M’ and ‘Iskander-K’ from a northerly direction,” Ukr­aine’s armed forces chief Valery Zaluzhny said.
“All the targets were destroyed by air defences.”
Sergiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s city administration, said that Russians struck in the morning when “most residents were at work and on the streets”.
“The Russians are clearly demonstrating that they are aiming to destroy the civilian population,” he said on Telegram.
Heavy barrage sparks panic
People running for shelter in a metro station in central Kyiv as volleys of explosions were heard.
A witness video showed a group of schoolchildren screaming as they ran down the street. Many residents have become used to ignoring air raid sirens but the heavy barrage prompted a panicked reaction. City authorities said 41,000 people hid in the metro.
Down on the platform of the Khreshchatyk metro station, people waited on the steps checking their mobile phones.
“I saw six, seven or eight... explosions in the sky. That’s why I came here with my work colleagues,” said Maksym, a plumber, sitting on the steps. “I’m waiting for the air raid to end.” “Everyone is used to the night (attacks) when we sleep at home. But the daytime is something new, it has not happened in a long time,” said Yevgeny, a 39-year-old programmer.
“They want to intimidate and scare us, so that we say this war must be stopped. That is what they are probably trying to achieve,” said Volodymyr, an entrepreneur.
The Kyiv city administration said air defences were at work during the air raid, which was the 16th attack on the city this month. Also, missile fragments scattered on the road in Kyiv’s northern Obolonskiy district.
“At first, they started shooting down missiles as usual. Then one of them fell on the road, as you can see, just the tail of it. Some people said it set a car on fire,” said Dmytro, a young man in a plaid shirt.
Kyiv had been relatively spared from attacks since the beginning of the year, but has faced almost nightly aerial raids this month.
Authorities said early on Monday that Kyiv had repelled another large number of overnight air strikes, with no casualties.
Zaluzhny said “up to 40 missiles” and “around 35 drones” had been launched, almost all of which were downed.

‘Targets destroyed’
Russia on Monday shelled a small town in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, killing one woman, local authorities said. A 61-year-old man was also killed by shelling in the southern Kherson region.

A missile attack in the eastern Kharkiv region last night pounded a small settlement, wounding seven people including a pregnant woman and children aged 10 and 14, the authorities said.
In the western region of Khmelnytsky, Russian forces struck a military facility overnight, officials said.
In a rare admission of damage to a military installation, they said “five aircraft have been put out of action.” Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had attacked Ukrainian airfields and “all the assigned targets have been destroyed”.
Moscow has warned the West against escalating the conflict after the United States agreed to greenlight deliveries of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Kyiv has been preparing an offensive although its timing and focus have been the subject of months of speculation. Ukrainian authorities have said almost nothing except that they need more weapons from the country’s backers.
Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said on Monday that in the frontline hotspot of Bakhmut “the intensity of the enemy’s offensive has significantly decreased” as Russian mercenary group Wagner was handing over its positions to Moscow’s regular troops.

NEW DELHI: Around 40 suspected militants and two police have died in fresh violence in Manipur in northeast India, an official said on Sunday, confirming comments from the state’s chief minister to local media.
Manipur has been on edge after an explosion of inter-ethnic violence this month killed at least 70 people and left tens of thousands displaced.
The state government official, who did not wish to be named, said that Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh told reporters earlier on Sunday that security forces killed around 40 “militants” over the last two days.

“The terrorists have been using M-16 and AK-47 assault rifles and sniper guns against civilians. They came to many villages to burn down homes,” local media quoted Singh as saying.
“We have started taking very strong action against them with the help of the army and other security forces. We have got reports some 40 terrorists have been shot dead,” Singh was quoted as saying. A military source confirmed an uptick of unrest, and said four people had been killed in the past 24 hours.
“At least three armed miscreants, who were trying to set fire to empty houses, and fired at the security forces when they tried to stop them, died in retaliatory firing,” the source said, declining to be named.
“One more armed miscreant was killed in Moreh and three others, including two security personnel, were injured,” the source said.
The far-flung states of northeast India — sandwiched between Bangladesh, China and Myanmar — have long been a tinderbox of tensions between different ethnic groups.
The violence in Manipur earlier in May was between the majority Meitei, who are mostly Hindus and live in around state capital Imphal, and the mainly Christian Kuki tribe in the surrounding hills.
The spark was Kuki anger at the prospect of the Meitei being given guaranteed quotas of government jobs and other perks in a form of affirmative action.
This also stoked long-held fears among the Kuki that the Meitei might also be allowed to acquire land in areas currently reserved for them and other tribal groups.
Thousands of troops were deployed to restore order, while around 30,000 people fled their homes for the safety of ad-hoc army-run camps for the displaced. Mobile internet has been cut for weeks.
On Wednesday, an indefinite curfew was re-imposed in the flashpoint Bishnupur district after suspected militants fired at a group of people, fatally wounding one person.
“Two persons, who had been living in a relief camp, were injured during the firing by the militants and one of them later died in a hospital,” a local police officer, who did not want to be identified, said.
Before the shooting, suspected militants torched some abandoned houses close to a relief camp set up for those displaced during the violence, the officer said.
The house of local minister Govindas Konthoujam was also attacked and ransacked when the family was away.

President Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory in Turkiye’s presidential election on Sunday, a win that would steer his increasingly authoritarian rule into a third decade.
Addressing supporters, Erdogan said voters had given him the responsibility to rule for the next five years.
“The only winner is Turkiye,” he said, addressing cheering supporters from atop a bus in Istanbul.
Final official results have yet to be released.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif congratulated Erdogan ahead of the final official results, saying that he was “one of few world leaders whose politics has been anchored in public service.
“He has been a pillar of strength for the oppressed Muslims and a fervent voice for their inalienable rights. His presidential victory and that of AKP in parliamentary elections is significant in so many ways, reflecting the trust and confidence of the Turkish people in his dynamic leadership.
“The bilateral relations between Pakistan and Turkiye will continue to stay on an upward trajectory. I keenly look forward to working with him to further deepen our strategic partnership in line with the excellent brotherhood between our two peoples,” Shehbaz tweeted.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the “historic victory reflects the trust of the Turkish nation in his visionary leadership. Wishing Türkiye eternal peace and prosperity as we continue our unique journey of brotherhood.”
There was no immediate response to Erdogan’s victory speech from his challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
The election had been seen as one of the most consequential yet for Turkiye, with the opposition believing it had a strong chance of unseating Erdogan after his popularity was hit by a cost-of-living crisis.
Instead, victory will reinforce his image of invincibility, after having already redrawn domestic, economic, security and foreign policy in the Nato member country of 85 million people and positioned Turkiye as a regional power.
Supporters gathered at his Istanbul residence in anticipation of victory as data reported by both state-run Anadolu agency and the opposition ANKA news agency gave him the edge with nearly 99 per cent of ballot boxes counted.
The head of the High Election Board earlier told a news conference that Erdogan was leading Kilicdaroglu with 54.47pc support, with 54.6pc of ballot boxes logged.
Erdogan, head of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, appealed to voters with nationalist and conservative rhetoric during a divisive campaign that deflected attention from deep economic troubles.
The defeat of Kilicdaroglu, who promised to set the country on a more democratic and collaborative path, would likely be cheered in Moscow but mourned in Western capitals and much of the Middle East after Turkiye took a more confrontational and independent stance in foreign affairs.
Erdogan supporters who were gathered outside his Istanbul residence chanted Allahu Akbar, or God is Greatest.
“I expect everything to become better,” said Nisa, 28, a headscarved woman wearing a headband with Erdogan’s name.
Another Erdogan supporter said Turkiye would get stronger with him in office for five more years.
“There are issues, problems in every country around the world, in European countries as well … With strong leadership we will overcome Turkiye’s problems as well,” said Mert, 39, who had come to celebrate with his son.
Bugra Oztug, 24, who voted for Kilicdaroglu, said she was not surprised at the result, blaming the opposition for failing to change.
“I feel sad and disappointed but I am not hopeless. I still think there are people who can see the realities and truth,” Oztug said.
Erdogan’s performance has wrong-footed opponents who also thought voters would punish him over the state’s initially slow response to devastating earthquakes in February, in which more than 50,000 people died.
But in the first round of voting on May 14, which included parliamentary elections, his AK Party emerged top in 10 of the 11 provinces hit by the earthquakes, helping it secure a parliamentary majority along with its allies.

Skeletal winged bodies of fairies, werewolves and aliens were said to have been found in the basement of an old house in London.
The macabre collection features what appears to be a range of mythical beasts, in cases and jars in gruesome poses.
Fairies seen with their flesh rotted away and their wings nailed to display boards are joined by sinister-looking contorted alien bodies and hairy humanoid remains.
The hoard also featured sketches of Jack the Ripper victims Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride along with alleged human hearts and other organs preserved in jars.
Bodies of strange creatures were allegedly found in a basement.
The gruesome exhibits were said to have been the collection of Thomas Theodore Merrylin, who was described as “a rich aristocrat and biologist in the 1800s”.
A blog post about the supposed finds claimed: “In 1960 in London at the time of clearing the site for construction of a new residential neighborhood, the old long-abandoned mansion belonged to Thomas Theodore Merrylin was set for demolition.
“In the basement of the home, builders have discovered several thousand small wooden boxes tightly sealed.
“Imagine their surprise when they began to find inside the bodies of strange mythical creatures, which seemed to have been living only in fairy tales.”
The items were said to have belonged to a rich 19th century collector
Many of the artifacts are skeletal in appearance
The shocking artifacts were revealed by artist Alex CF, who claimed Merrylin’s diaries refer to “all sorts of advanced ideas that didn’t exist at the time, such as quantum physics and the multiverse theory.”
His diaries also allegedly contain scientific explanations for many of the mythical-looking specimens in his collection.
Alex CF claims to be the curator of the collection, which can be viewed online .
But the story is actually well-crafted narrative pieced together by the artist.
Sceptics have claimed the alleged bodies are part of a clever art project
Commenting on the pieces, one online commenter, called James Campbell, wrote: “Did this guy raid the props department of Hammer films I mean come on people.

WASHINGTON: The United States wants the people of Pakistan and Bangladesh to meaningfully participate in electing their governments, says the US State Department.

In the US Congress, the chairperson of the Pakistan caucus, too, joined a growing number of lawmakers who are expressing concern at reported human rights abuses in Pakistan.

“We value our longstanding bilateral relationships with both Pakistan and Bangladesh,” a State Department spokesperson told journalists in Washington.

“We are committed to supporting a future in which all Pakistanis and Bangladeshis can meaningfully participate in their governments and determine the outcomes of their elections pursuant to their constitution and laws,” the US official added.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week announced a new visa policy to support free, fair, and peaceful national elections in Bangladesh.
Under this policy, the US will restrict the issuance of visas for any Bangladeshi individual believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the country’s democratic election process.
Later, Bangladesh announced that it was taking steps to tackle unlawful interference in its elections. In Washington, Bangladesh’s three-term Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s style of functioning is seen as increasingly authoritarian. There are indications that the US could be more open to a political change in Dhaka.
However, the US administration has been refusing to take sides in Pakistan’s current political turmoil. Every time the issue was raised at an official briefing in Washington, US officials made it clear that Washington would not support any particular candidate or party in Pakistan.
When pressed for a Pakistan-specific comment, the officials would say: “The United States is committed to the promotion of democracy and free and fair elections all over the world.”
The situation, however, is different on Capitol Hill where former prime minister Imran Khan’s supporters have won over a large number of sympathizers in both the House and the Senate.
Recently, 69 congresspersons sent a letter to Secretary Blinken, asking him to use “all tools” at his disposal to protect democracy in Pakistan. They are now trying to generate a similar move in the Senate.

On Friday, PTI’s US chapter also won over the founding, and current, chairperson of the Pakistan Caucus in the House, Sheila Jackson Lee.
“As the founder and chair of the … Congressional Pakistan caucus, I am extremely concerned about the reports that are coming out of Pakistan of human rights abuses and the lack of protection for those who express peaceful opposition to the government,” she wrote in a series of tweets posted on her site.
Ms Jackson Lee said she was particularly concerned that the former prime minister was “arrested multiple times” and there “appears to be no provision for a just response to this apparent unfairness.”

She also demanded that people in Pakistan should have the right to “a free, safe and unfettered protest.” She said she would be writing to President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken and ask them to insist on the ending of these human rights violations against the opposition and others.

“And additionally, to ensure that we continue to promote the US and Pakistani relationship and a democratic Pakistan,” she wrote.

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