China Tells Taiwan President Not to Meet With US House Speaker During Visit

China on Wednesday warned that it would respond if Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) while she visits the US as part of a trip to Central America.

Tsai departed for her trip to Guatemala and Belize, two countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taipei. On the way there, Tsai will spend two days in New York, and on the way back, she will stop in Los Angeles on April 4 and 5, where she’s expected to meet with McCarthy.

Beijing views any official contact between Taiwan’s president and high-level US government officials as an affront to the one-China policy. In August 2022, China launched its largest-ever military exercises around Taiwan in response to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visiting the island.

Zhu Fenglian, a spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said if Tsai “has contact with US House Speaker McCarthy, it will be another provocation that seriously violates the one-China principle, harms China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and destroys peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

“We firmly oppose this and will definitely take measures to resolutely fight back,” Zhu added. Tsai has traveled to the US as president several times before, most recently in 2019. But tensions between the US and China over Taiwan have soared since then, and Beijing has been responding more harshly to official contacts between Washington and Taipei.

The White House said Wednesday that China shouldn’t take any action in response to Tsai’s trip, insisting it’s not an official visit. “It is Taiwan’s decision to make these transits based on their own travel, transits are not visits, they are private, and they are unofficial,” said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

Later in the day, Xu Xueyuan, chargé d’affaires at China’s embassy in Washington, rejected the White House’s position and warned a Tsai-McCarthy meeting could lead to a confrontation between the US and China. Xu said the US “should not use past mistakes as excuses for repeating them today.”

“[Whether] it is Taiwan leaders coming to the United States or the US leaders visiting Taiwan, it could lead to another serious, serious, serious, I repeat, confrontation in the China-US relationship,” Xu added.

This article was originally featured at and is republished with permission.

White House Wants to Form International Tribunal to Prosecute Russian Leader for War Crimes

After months of indecision, the Joe Biden administration has come out in favor of using international mechanisms to punish Russian officials for the “crime of aggression” in Ukraine. The White House has resisted Kiev’s effort to prosecute President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders at the International Crime Court (ICC) over fears that American officials could face similar accountability.

US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack announced the decision on Monday. “At this critical moment in history, I am pleased to announce that the United States supports the development of an internationalized tribunal dedicated to prosecuting the crime of aggression against Ukraine,” she said, adding that “there are compelling arguments for why” the crime of aggression “must be prosecuted alongside” crimes that are being investigated by the ICC.

Van Schaack also discussed involving the Ukrainian judicial system and the European Union court in the prosecution. “We envision such a court having significant international elements – in the form of substantive law, personnel, information sources, and structure,” she said. “It might also be located elsewhere in Europe, at least at first, to reinforce Ukraine’s desired European orientation, lend gravitas to the initiative, and enable international involvement, including through [the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation].”

Kiev and other Western countries have pressed the US and the ICC to put Russian officials on trial for months, but Washington has resisted signing on. Earlier this month, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, for allegedly kidnapping Ukrainian children.

At that time, the Department of Defense was blocking Washington from sharing information with the court over concerns that it might set a precedent allowing US troops to be prosecuted for similar actions. During the Donald Trump administration, the US sanctioned ICC officials for attempting to investigate American war crimes committed in Afghanistan.

Biden lifted the sanctions on the ICC but denounced the court for investigating both US war crimes in Afghanistan and the Israeli apartheid regime’s crimes against Palestinians, including large-scale massacres in the Gaza Strip.

The prosecution of Russian officials has also interrupted potential Chinese-brokered negotiations between Kiev and Moscow. Last week, Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that the ICC’s arrest warrant on Putin “means there will be no negotiations with the current Russian elite.”

As with Russia, the United States does not recognize the ICC. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act, also known as the “Hague Invasion Act.” The bipartisan legislation went as far as to authorize military action against the Netherlands – a fellow founding member of NATO – to prevent US officials and military personnel accused of war crimes from facing accountability in an international tribunal.

The US has spent years pressuring other ICC member states to sign agreements refusing to ever surrender US troops to the court, in some cases even threatening economic sanctions, cuts in aid, or the withholding of US military assistance.

Washington has various restrictions in place preventing US cooperation with the ICC, although recent legislative adjustments have enabled an exception for the court’s “investigations and prosecutions” linked to the war in Ukraine. That inconsistent position has been challenged and criticized by organizations such as Human Rights Watch, which urged the Biden administration to ”set aside its objection” to the ICC.

UN Security Council Won’t Probe Nord Stream Bombing

The UN Security Council voted Monday against a Russian effort to get an independent investigation into the bombings of the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines that connect Russia to Germany.

The only members of the Council that voted in favor of the resolution were Russia, China, and Brazil. The remaining 12 members abstained from the vote, including the US, the likely culprit of the attacks.

The resolution had little chance of passing since it needed at least nine votes in favor and no veto from any of the five permanent members of the Security Council: the US, China, Russia, Britain, and France.

Russia has been pushing for an international inquiry into the Nord Stream sabotage since investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published a bombshell report in February that alleged President Biden ordered the bombings.

Hersh’s report said US Navy divers planted explosives on the pipelines in June 2022 under the cover of NATO exercises in the Baltic Sea. The operation was carried out with Norway, and a Norwegian spy plane dropped a sonar buoy on September 26, 2022, that detonated the explosives.

The US has denied responsibility for the bombing, and The New York Times recently published a story that claimed US officials believe a “pro-Ukrainian group” might be responsible for the sabotage. But according to Hersh, the new narrative was planted by the CIA after members of the spy agency were ordered to concoct a cover story to point responsibility away from the US following a meeting between President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

This article was originally featured at and is republished with permission.

US to Withhold Nuclear Weapons Data From Russia

The White House announced on Tuesday that it will no longer send the Kremlin data on its nuclear weapons. Under the New Start treaty, the US and Russia agreed to share such information. However, Moscow has suspended its involvement in the pact amid rapidly deteriorating relations with Washington.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the White House made the decision after concluding Russia is in violation of the landmark arms control treaty, hoping the move will push Moscow to resume full compliance. 

“As a lawful countermeasure intended to encourage Russia to return to compliance with the treaty, the United States will likewise not provide its biannual data update to Russia,” Kirby said. “The United States informed Russia in advance of this step. In the interest of strategic stability, the United States will continue to promote public transparency on our nuclear force levels and posture.” He added that Moscow was also no longer sharing nuclear data with the US. 

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov later appeared to contradict Kirby, saying there has been no contact between the two sides regarding the New Start agreement.

Russia officially suspended its participation in the treaty on March 1, but the Kremlin said it would continue to comply with the nuclear weapons caps set under the agreement. Moscow’s top diplomat said “our readiness to adhere to the caps on strategic nuclear arms in the treaty is nothing more than a goodwill gesture.” 

The Kremlin argued US travel restrictions on Russian officials prevented them from inspecting the American nuclear stockpile. 

As of Monday, Washington also said it is not changing its nuclear posture, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stating that the administration has not seen “any indications that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.” 

The New Start treaty was the last arms control agreement between the US and Russia. The agreement caps the number of nuclear weapons each country may deploy at any given time, and requires periodic inspections and the transfer of nuclear data. 


EU Planning to Invest Frozen Russian Assets, Give Returns to Ukraine

The European Union is developing proposals on what to do with assets seized from the Russian central bank by member states. According to European officials, the bloc may invest the money and hand the returns to Ukraine. 

Anders Ahnlid, a Swedish diplomat who leads the commission exploring what to do with the Kremlin’s money, told Politico that whatever decision is made will be without precedent. “There is a consensus among [EU] member states that it’s important to examine very, very carefully, what can be done under the instructions that we’ve been given, including that what is going to be done will have to be in compliance with EU and international law,” she said. “We are in an exceptional situation and probably any solution that we will come up with will be of a nature that hasn’t been there before.”

The diplomats believe the bloc will be able to legally invest the funds because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an “exceptional and gross violation” of international and humanitarian law. 

However, the commission admits it will have to change sanctions regulations to carry out the plan. The current statutes say once funds are unfrozen, then the target will get access to their capital as well as any returns that accrued during the sanctions period. 

The bloc hopes other Western nations will join in on the scheme. The EU said taking steps in coordination with the Group of 7 (G7) was vital to not spooking investors. The commission estimates that EU and G7 countries have frozen about $300 billion in Russian central bank assets. It believes if the money is invested, it can earn about a 2.6% return. 

The EU is not sure how it would handle losses. “Losses can never be excluded,” and so the question of “who bears any residual risk in case [of] such losses … will require a clear legal answer,” the commission admitted. Adding, losses have “political and financial implications.”

The commission was created last month at the direction of Sweden. “The mandate is to contribute to mapping which funds have been frozen in the European Union … and secondly how to legally proceed to access those funds,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said.

The Swedish Prime Minister stated that Russian citizens must bare the cost of the war in Ukraine. Kristersson said that it’s “Russian taxpayers, not all other taxpayers, who must bear the cost of the necessary reconstruction work.”



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