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US warships head for South China Sea after standoff
From The TimesMarch 14, 2009
Tim Reid in Washington
A potential conflict was brewing last night in the South China Sea after President Obama dispatched heavily armed American destroyers to the scene of a naval standoff between the US and China at the weekend.
Mr Obama’s decision to send an armed escort for US surveillance ships in the area follows the aggressive and co-ordinated manoeuvres of five Chinese boats on Sunday. They harassed and nearly collided with an unarmed American vessel.
Washington accused the Chinese ships of moving directly in front of the US Navy surveillance ship Impeccable, forcing its crew to take emergency action, and to deploy a high-pressure water hose to deter the Chinese ships. Formal protests were lodged with Beijing after the incident.
On a day that Mr Obama and his senior officials met the Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, in Washington, Beijing showed no sign of backing down. Its military chiefs accused the unarmed US Navy ship of being on a spying mission.
The US keeps a close eye on China’s arsenal, including its expanding fleet of submarines in the area. Washington says that the confrontation occurred in international waters, but Beijing claims nearly all the South China Sea as its own, putting it in conflict with five other nations that have claims over different parts of the waters.
The episode complicated fragile military relations between the US and China, which appeared to have improved after the two held defence talks in Beijing last month.
Mr Obama yesterday urged more military dialogue with China to avoid similar incidents after talks with Mr Yang, the White House said. “The President also stressed the importance of raising the level and frequency of military-to-military dialogue,” it said.
A hotline was established between the Chinese Defence Ministry and the Pentagon in April last year, but it was not used during or after Sunday’s standoff, defence officials said. The US Government immediately protested to Chinese authorities after the incident, about 75 miles south of Hainan Island.
Beijing has rejected the US account and demanded that the United States cease what it calls illegal activities in the South China Sea. The Chinese maintain the area is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Washington insists that the area is part of international waters and that US ships have a legal right to operate there.
China condemns US warship deployment as tensions mount
Dollar mostly down as China warns on weak buck Link
The dollar was slightly lower against the euro, pound and yen Friday afternoon as China's premier warned the U.S. not to let the dollar get too weak through massive deficit spending.
The 16-nation euro traded at $1.2875, up from $1.2862, while the British pound gained to $1.3940 from $1.3909.
The dollar edged down to 97.96 Japanese yen from 97.99 yen.
On Friday, the Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit dropped to a six-year low in January as imports, especially of crude oil, slid. The trade imbalance stood at $36 billion in January, down nearly 10 percent from the month prior. It stands to contract from last year if the pace keeps on _ even as American exports are dropping, imports are falling even more sharply.
In 2007, the trade deficit narrowed after setting records for five years in a row.
A smaller trade imbalance is a long-term positive for the dollar, said Bank of New York Mellon Corp. senior currency strategist Michael Woolfolk.
The trade deficit with China rose 3.5 percent, however, to $20.6 billion.
Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned the U.S. that it needs to recognize the value of a strong dollar to help underwrite the value of the bonds it is selling to finance huge increases in government spending, such as the $787 billion stimulus.
China holds about $1 trillion of U.S. government debt. A weak buck would erase some of the value of that reserve.
The dollar tilted lower, however, as markets traded nearly flat.
Stronger overseas markets and economic data often encourage investors to expatriate investments from the safe haven of the dollar, diminishing its value.
In other New York trading, the dollar rose to 1.1892 Swiss francs from 1.1880 late Thursday, and slipped to 1.2736 Canadian dollars from 1.2788.
China foreign minister warns U.S. on Taiwan Agence France-Presse
China's foreign minister on Thursday warned the United States on Taiwan, saying that Beijing will never compromise despite easing cross-strait tensions.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi issued his warning in a speech in Washington, where he nonetheless called for greater cooperation with President Barack Obama's administration despite recent rows.
"I want to stress that no matter how the situation across the Taiwan Strait may evolve, we will never waiver in our commitment to the one China principle and will never compromise our opposition to 'Taiwan independence,' 'two Chinas' or 'one China, one Taiwan,'" he said.
"We hope that the U.S. side will honor its commitments, prudently and properly handle Taiwan-related issues, and take concrete actions to support the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations," he said.
Yang was speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at a closed-door luncheon before his meeting with Obama.
The think tank later released footage of the event, which was not publicly announced beforehand.
Yang said China would continue efforts to "bring about new progress in the peaceful development of cross-strait relations."
The U.S. in 1979 severed relations with Taiwan when it recognized Beijing as China's only legitimate government. However, the U.S. Congress at the same time approved a law requiring the United States retain the capability to defend Taiwan's security and provide "arms of a defensive character."
China has strongly opposed U.S. military sales to Taiwan.
It's time to shut down U.S. bases abroad’ 12 March, 2009
Washington cannot afford its extensive network of overseas military bases because of the world financial crisis, says David Vine from the National Project on Foreign Military Bases.
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Kucinich Requests Investigation into “Executive Assassination Ring” Washington, Mar 16 -
Washington D.C. (March 16, 2009) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) Friday sent a letter to Chairman Edolphus Towns of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requesting an immediate investigation into allegations made by the investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the White House operated an ‘executive assassination ring’ that circumvented Congressional oversight.
Kucinich explains in the letter that, “Mr. Hersh made the allegation before an audience at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday, March 10, 2009. He stated, ‘Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving… It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. . .Congress has no oversight of it.’”
Kucinich adds, “If true, these operations violate longstanding U.S. policy regarding covert actions and illegally bypass Congressional oversight… Hersh is within a year or more of releasing a book that is said to include evidence of this allegation. However, we cannot wait a year or more to establish the truth.”