Russia Pulls Out of Nuclear Treaty in ‘Symmetrical’ Response to U.S. Move

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia discussed new weapons systems in a televised meeting on Saturday with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.CreditPool photo by Alexei Nikolsky
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia discussed new weapons systems in a televised meeting on Saturday with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.CreditCreditPool photo by Alexei Nikolsky

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in a decision that was widely expected, suspended his country’s observance of a key nuclear arms control pact on Saturday in response to a similar move by the United States a day before.

But adding to a sense that the broader architecture of nuclear disarmament has started to unravel, Mr. Putin also said that Russia would build weapons previously banned under the treaty and would no longer initiate talks with the United States on any matters related to nuclear arms control.

The Trump administration withdrew from the treaty, a keystone of the late Cold War disarmament pacts known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying that Russia had been violating it for years. The decision holds the potential to initiate a new arms race, not only with Russia, but also China, which was never a signatory to the 1987 treaty.

Beijing responded to the American announcement by warning on Saturday that the breakup of the treaty would undermine global security, but also by rejecting calls for China to join an expanded version of the pact.

In a televised meeting on Saturday with his ministers of foreign affairs and defense, Mr. Putin said Russia would, indeed, design and build weapons previously banned under the treaty — something the United States says Russia is already doing — but would not deploy them unless America did so first.

[Read more: U.S. suspends nuclear arms treaty with Russia.]

“I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we must not and will not let ourselves be drawn into an expensive arms race,” Mr. Putin told his ministers. Money to build the new missiles, he said, will come from the existing defense budget.

The treaty had prohibited the United States and Russia from testing or deploying land-based missiles able to fly in what are known as short or intermediate ranges: 300 to 3,400 miles. Both countries have sea- and air-launched missiles that fly in these ranges.

The minister of defense, Sergei K. Shoigu, suggested that Russia in coming months design and test a land-based launcher for its maritime cruise missile, called the Kalibr, an analogue to the American Tomahawk, and a new short-range ballistic missile.

“I agree,” Mr. Putin said. “Our response will be symmetrical. Our American partners announced that they are suspending their participation in the I.N.F. Treaty, and we are suspending it too. They said that they are engaged in research, development and design work, and we will do the same.”

In his remarks, the Russian minister of foreign affairs, Sergey V. Lavrov, presented a picture of the wobbly state of the whole architecture of American and Russian nuclear disarmament that had been erected over the past 50 years, beginning with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972.

Mr. Lavrov suggested a number of treaties were in need of urgent review, such as the Nonproliferation Treaty that prohibits passing nuclear weapons technology to countries that do not already posses it. He argued that America had violated it by conducting nuclear deterrence training exercises with NATO nations that were not declared nuclear powers.

China’s array of nuclear weapons remains much smaller than the American and Russian forces, but Beijing has been upgrading and expanding its arsenal. Some critics of the intermediate nuclear forces treaty have argued that it unfairly ties the United States’ hands from responding effectively to China’s military buildup.

In October, President Trump cited China’s potential expansion as a reason the United States should consider quitting the treaty.

“If Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it, and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” Mr. Trump said after a rally in Nevada.

In January, Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party-controlled tabloid newspaper with a heavily nationalist tone, reported that a People’s Liberation Army unit had carried out an exercise with an intermediate-range “ship killer” missile formally called the DF-26. China probably has 16 to 30 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, an annual Pentagon report on China’s military said last year.

At the televised meeting, Mr. Putin said that Russia remained open to negotiation, and that Moscow’s proposals to resolve disputes “remained on the table.” But he said that neither the Ministry of Defense or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should initiate talks with the United States.

“I suggest that we wait until our partners are ready to engage in equal and meaningful dialogue,” he said.

China, meanwhile, appeared to have no interest in binding itself to an intermediate missile treaty, even as it defended the current agreement between Russia and the United States.

“This treaty plays a significant role in easing major-country relations, promoting international and regional peace, and safeguarding global strategic balance and stability,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement on the ministry’s website. “China is opposed to the U.S. withdrawal and urges the U.S. and Russia to properly resolve differences through constructive dialogue.”

But he added: “China opposes the multilateralization of this treaty. What is imperative at the moment is to uphold and implement the existing treaty instead of creating a new one.”

China’s greenhouse gas emissions rising, undermining Xi’s climate push

Hong Kong (CNN)Chinese methane emissions are rising at an alarming rate despite recent government regulations aimed at curbing the climate-changing pollutant, a new report has revealed.

A study released in the journal Nature on Tuesday shows a steady growth in China’s methane emissions, primarily from the country’s massive coal mining sector, undermining Beijing’s claims to be leading the world on climate change action.
“Methane emissions in China appear to be increasing, business as usual. We were unable to detect any impact of regulations on the country’s methane emissions,” the report’s lead researcher Scot M. Miller told CNN.
China is among the world’s largest emitters of methane. While methane is less prevalent in the earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it traps “28 times more heat” according to the Global Carbon Project.
In 2010 the Chinese government enacted a series of new polices requiring methane from coal mining to be captured, or to be converted into carbon dioxide.
But scientists found that the policies had failed to curb overall emissions.

exp Carbon emissions spiked in 2019_00002001

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US carbon emissions on the rise again 06:24
Using data from Japanese satellites collected between 2010 and 2010, the study found China’s annual methane emissions increased by 50% for at least five years after government regulations were passed in 2010. The jump is equivalent to the total emissions of other large nations such as Russia and Brazil.
“China has had great ambitions for capturing that methane and using it for electricity production or heating buildings, but what we found is that there’s little evidence that they’ve been able to meet those ambitions,” Miller told CNN.
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal. The country’s continued reliance on the fossil fuel has come under increased scrutiny in recent years.
President Xi Jinping has placed a huge emphasis on tackling pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in his second term in office, making it one of his “three battles” in 2017.
State-run media has been making a big show of broadcasting punishments against officials caught violating environmental laws, with 32 people detained in November after inspections of ten provinces.
In fact, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change agreement in 2017, questions were raised over whether Beijing was now the leading nation on tackling climate change.
Asked about China’s climate change commitments in November, Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate change special envoy, said it was the country’s responsibility to deliver on their promises “to protect humanity and the earth.”
“By the end of 2017, China’s carbon intensity had already fallen by 46%, meaning that it has achieved its goal three years ahead of schedule. Renewable energy already accounts for 13.8% of primary energy consumption and will surely meet the goal of 15% by 2020,” Xie said.
Miller conceded that his research only extended to 2015, meaning that stricter regulations enforced by Xi may yet to be reflected in the data.
“In terms of methane, China’s emissions are so much larger than any other country that anything they could do to mitigate their emissions could have a substantial impact on overall methane levels in the atmosphere,” he said.

Major tsunami in 1076 caused ‘drastic cultural decline’ along south China coast now dotted with nuclear plants



Major tsunami struck China’s southern coast in 1076 causing “drastic cultural decline,” Chinese researchers say in a study with implications for a densely populated region that now boasts multiple coastal nuclear power plants.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that an earthquake in the Manila Trench sent a wall of water coursing into what is now China’s Guangdong province around 1,000 years ago.

Now scientists believe they have narrowed down the date to an exact year — 1076 — and say the new data should set alarm bells ringing over whether enough is being done to defend against future tsunami.

“This study confirms the risk of tsunamis in the South China Sea,” the teams from the University of Science and Technology and East China Normal University wrote in January’s issue of Chinese Science Bulletin.

“Such risk should be considered in future planning and construction of nuclear power plant, harbor and petroleum reserve structures on the coastlines of China,” they added.

A number of nuclear power plants sit on China’s southern coast, including at Fuqing, Daya Bay and a soon-to-open plant at Taishan.

The wider area is also one of the world’s most densely populated regions and includes multiple major coastal cities, such as Hong Kong, Macau, Xiamen and Quanzhou.

The vulnerability of nuclear power plants to seismic events has become a major cause for concern ever since a 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in northeastern Japan crippled the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

The Chinese research team first found evidence of a destructive historical wave on Dongdao Island, which is located in the middle of the South China Sea, in 2013.

They discovered rocks and corals that had been moved about 200 meters inland from the shoreline and concluded only a major force of water could have achieved this.

Another team found shards of ceramics in tsunami sediment from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) on the island of Nan’ao, some 250 km (155 miles) up the coast from Hong Kong’s eastern side.

Professor Gao Shu at the East China Normal University told Xinhua that the southeast tip of the island used to be a town with official kilns for making porcelain.

Researchers struggled to find any archaeological artifacts from after the suspected wave until the later Ming dynasty.

They also found a shipwreck with 20,000 coins from around the time the tsunami might have struck.

“This cultural evidence indicates a drastic cultural decline caused by the tsunami,” they wrote.

China has begun moves to gather data in the South China Sea about potential tsunami threats, deploying early warning buoys off the the Manila Trench last year.

China takes more fish out of the world’s seas than the next five countries combined, in fleets underwritten by government agencies. In fact, China is collapsing the world’s fish stocks. The fish populations that once abounded along the country’s vast coastline have now all but vanished.

Nor is this scouring taking place only along the Chinese coastline. Today thousands of Chinese ships are trawling international waters from Guinea to Liberia and Senegal to TaiwanPalau and Fiji and beyond to Chile and even beyond that, Chinese fishing vessels are scouring the seas for anything that swims, vastly underreporting their catches to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

No one—aside from China—knows precisely what is going on in terms of fishing around their manmade islands in the South China Sea, but reports from the general region say that fish stocks are collapsing. Even China has acknowledged that the widespread destruction of coral reefs and the poaching of sea turtles. In fact, China believes that the South China Sea is its territory – its own saltwater lake, in essence, delineated by its 1948 “nine-dash line” – and it would be foolish to imagine that anything less than what has happened to the coastline along the Chinese mainland would take place down in its newly “recovered” ancient territory.

In other words, this once ultra-rich fishery will soon turn into a wasteland, if it isn’t already. It’s not like the Chinese coast guard will allow foreign vessels to get too close.

These aren’t simply enterprising, hard-working fishermen who are willing to travel far to earn a paycheck. This is a state-sponsored activity. In a nutshell, what we have here is state-sponsored poaching of the high seas and even into the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of sovereign nations, which has been causing scuffles to break out on the waves between foreign coastguards and Chinese poaching vessels. The thinking seems to be get it before it’s gone, or if we don’t catch it, someone else will, so poach it fast and get out of there.

It’s not difficult to imagine that this sort of thinking and action leads to a highly negative feedback cycle in which the oceans are rapidly overfished with state support and soon virtually emptied out. You get a desolate modern Chinese coast, except spread across the whole world. In fact, in a part of the South China Sea still under the control of the Philippines, Chinese fishermen have been seen deliberately destroying coral reefs.

This type of selfish thinking is going to lead to ecological catastrophe on a global scale in our oceans and seas. Who is going to do something about it? The WTO recently backed down on a stricter ruling regarding government fishing subsidies, and in response China’s state-funded Huanghai Shipbuilding Co. quickly built seven more tuna vessels. The United States and Canada might be able to keep Chinese vessels out of their EEZs, but how about West African nations? Chinese captains and boat owners like to target notoriously corrupt countries—many of which are located in West Africa—where they can easily make payoffs to corrupt officials. Traditional artisanal fishermen with small boats and nets cannot compete with state-sponsored Chinese poachers active in their homeland’s waters.

While China has publicly vowed to reform its foreign fishing habits, and while some countries such as the Bahamas are pushing back against Chinese fishing in their coastal waters (the Chinese are in the Caribbean too), the overall trend is towards escalated overfishing. The situation has gotten so bad, so fast, that some start-ups are thinking that “lab fish” grown in laboratories might be the solution.

And fishing “outposts” in foreign countries can have strategic and military implications as well, becoming bases and possible extensions of the military installations in the South China Sea.

We see this in happening already in Vanuatu where Chinese is building military installations (they deny it, saying they are only fishing), and also in Fiji where Chinese spy vessels are docking while hundreds of Chinese fishing boats are clearing tuna out of Fijian waters and everything else that swims.

With major military outposts in the South China Sea and now new ones sprouting up in small South Pacific nations, and with rented islands in the Maldives99-year leases on the Cambodian coastdebt-trap acquisitions in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, it would seem that China has everything except the North Atlantic. It’s difficult to imagine that this is all a grand coincidence and not part of a secret strategy to get a stranglehold on the world’s seas, empty them out easily by backing up fishing vessels with “coast guard” ships from rented ports and artificial islands, and overfish it all until everything is gone. That certainly seems to be the direction we’re heading in, plan or no plan.

For millennia the high seas were like gargantuan, boundless protected areas simply because refrigerated, long-distance fishing vessels didn’t exist. There would be no point in sailing a week out into the middle of the Pacific when everything would rot by the time you got back to port. But that’s all changed now, of course, and in addition to out-of-control overfishing, largely by the Chinese but also substantially the Taiwanese, ocean-going vessels also dump massive amounts of plastic and other waste into the high seas.

In fact, it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the worlds’ oceans. Who is going to be out there to patrol all of this? And this article didn’t even touch on the forced labor and outright slavery that constitutes the dreadful working conditions many “fishermen” find themselves tricked or coerced into.

Is there any solution? It’s hard for me to imagine it. Perhaps countries need to take a tougher stand and, like Indonesia, blow up foreign fishing vessels and make a public display of it in order send a strong signal to foreign poaching fleets. My guess is that only drastic measures will work.

Earlier this year while on an evening flight from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei I looked out the window down at the South China Sea and I had to blink, remove my glasses, rub my eyes, and take another look. Which city was this that we were flying over? Wasn’t this supposed to be a large body of water? A sea? There were so many lighted fishing boats (probably going for squid) down below that it looked as if we were passing over a sprawling city. So many fuzzy white lights down below that for a while I felt as if we were in a spacecraft flying over the Milky Way.

Is that the future of our oceans? Every inch of them being fished out every minute of the day, industrial-scale, non-stop? I don’t know for sure which country those fishing vessels hailed from, but if I had to make a guess, I know where I’d put my money.

Gregory McCann is the Project Coordinator for Habitat ID and the author of the book Called Away by a Mountain Spirit: Journeys to the Green Corridor. You can support his conservation projects in Cambodia and Sumatra here.

China finds African swine fever in country’s south, fuelling supply worries

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s three-month old outbreak of African swine fever has spread for the first time to the country’s south, its major pork-consuming region, signaling how deeply the deadly disease has permeated the country’s pig herd, the world’s largest.

FILE PHOTO: Pigs are pictured at a farm on the outskirts of Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province November 30, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Two new cases reported in the southwestern province of Yunnan on Sunday came as China enters its peak pig production period ahead of the country’s most important festival, the New Year holiday, which will be held in early February 2019.

“The thing that we worried about the most has now happened,” said Feng Yonghui, chief analyst at industry portal, referring to the spread of disease from northeast to southwest.

China has reported more than 40 outbreaks of the highly contagious disease in 11 provinces and municipalities, culling an estimated 200,000 pigs. All outbreaks had been in the north and eastern provinces until the first case in Yunnan.

The latest outbreaks, first reported by the official CCTV, were on two small farms in Zhaotong, a city in the northeast of Yunnan. On Monday, another outbreak was reported in eastern Zhejiang province.

Zhaotong is located almost 3,000 km (1,865 miles) from the city of Shenyang in the northeastern province of Liaoning where the first outbreak was reported in early August.

“Now there’s only some provinces that haven’t confirmed any cases but it’s very unlikely that they will be clean. Basically, it’s already everywhere,” said Pan Chenjun, a senior analyst at Rabobank.

For a graphic on Swine fever in China, see –

A total of 545 pigs had already died on the two farms in Zhaotong when the disease was confirmed. Almost 7,000 pigs in the 3-km (1.9 miles) area around the farms will be culled by midday on Monday, the website of state media Yunnan Daily said on Monday.

The cases in the southwest could have a major impact on the pork market, warned analysts, as the region both produces and consumes the most pork in China.

“In the southwest, everyone eats pork, no matter what their income level is,” said Feng.

Sichuan province, which borders Yunnan, is China’s biggest pig-farming region, slaughtering 69 million pigs in 2016, according to official data. The Guangxi region, also next to Yunnan, produced 33 million pigs in 2016 and has expanded output.

People in Sichuan eat 68 kg (150 pounds) of pork per person per year, according to research by Rabobank. That compares with just 20 kg in Shanxi province in northern China.

If China bans the transport of pigs from Yunnan and its neighboring provinces, as it has after outbreaks in the northern provinces, supplies in the south will likely plummet.

Transport restrictions would be the “worst scenario”, said Rabbobank’s Pan, noting that Guangxi is a key supplier to Guangdong, China’s most populous province.

Beijing has still not said how the disease first entered the country.

With only a few months until the peak pork consumption period of the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s agriculture ministry warned on Friday that pig prices will rise ahead of the festival because of the outbreak.

Because of the pig transport bans, supply trapped in the north cannot meet the demand in the south, causing distortions in prices. The price of a pig in eastern Zhejiang province rose to 20 yuan ($2.88) per kg earlier this month while in Liaoning prices dropped to 10 yuan per kg.

Prices in Yunnan fell 0.3 yuan on Monday to 14.7 yuan per kg, according to data gathered by China-America Commodity Data Analytics Inc.

($1 = 6.9350 Chinese yuan renminbi)

U.S.-China Tensions Break Out in Beijing

Senior official tells Pompeo he needs stable relations, citing efforts to pressure North Korea

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi points the way for U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before a meeting in Beijing on Monday. In opening remarks, the two men publicly expressed strains between their countries.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi points the way for U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before a meeting in Beijing on Monday. In opening remarks, the two men publicly expressed strains between their countries. PHOTO: POOL/REUTERS

BEIJING—A rare public confrontation between the top U.S. and Chinese diplomats marked a new level in the worsening relations between the world’s two biggest economies and risked complicating an anticipated summit meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo exchanged testy words with Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Monday at a critical moment for U.S.-China relations, with trade negotiations stalled, military talks halted and both sides blaming each other for a recent close encounter between their warships in the South China Sea.

The exchange followed a major speech last week in which Vice President Mike Pence outlined a shift in U.S. strategy from engagement to confrontation with China, accusing Beijing of undermining American interests on several fronts, including meddling in U.S. elections.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this weekend in Pyongyang before heading to Seoul and Beijing.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this weekend in Pyongyang before heading to Seoul and Beijing. PHOTO: KCNA/REUTERS

It also came as the U.S. presses China—North Korea’s main ally, investor and trade partner—to persuade Mr. Kim to abandon his nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Wang began his meeting with Mr. Pompeo by accusing the U.S. of escalating trade friction, causing trouble over Taiwan and unjustifiably criticizing China’s domestic and external policies.

“We demand that the U.S. side stop this kind of mistaken action,” Mr. Wang said.

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Tensions Rise Between Washington and Beijing

Tensions Rise Between Washington and Beijing

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis canceled a trip to China, and President Trump accused China of election interference. The WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains how U.S.-China tensions are rising. Photo: Getty

Mr. Pompeo said the U.S. had a “fundamental disagreement” with Beijing on an array of economic and security issues but that the relationship between the two countries was “incredibly important.”

Mr. Pompeo also didn’t meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as he did in June during his first official visit to China as secretary of state.

It was highly unusual for a visiting U.S. secretary of state not to meet with the Chinese president and to be publicly chastised by his host, said Daniel Russel, who served as the top State Department official on Asia during the Obama administration.

“The confrontational approach that the Trump administration has taken is far more likely to cause China to dig in than to give in,” said Mr. Russel, who is now vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research center. “It will reduce the likelihood that the Chinese will make common cause over North Korea policy,” he said.

China and the U.S. have overlapping interests in maintaining peace in northeast Asia and in an agreement that would denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. But there have also been differences between the two sides about how to go about it.

China has long favored a more drawn-out and phased approach toward denuclearization than the Trump administration, which has argued in favor of a speedy denuclearization that might even be accomplished by January 2021, which would mark the end of Mr. Trump’s current term.

There are some aspects of the administration’s policy that the Chinese welcome, such as the suspension of U.S. military exercises in South Korea. But the Chinese are also worried that the U.S. use a denuclearization accord to expand its influence into North Korea or that rapid change might destabilize Mr. Kim’s regime.

Even before the tough exchange of words, the U.S. was complaining that the Chinese were not enforcing United Nations economic sanctions against Pyongyang with sufficient rigor.

Monday’s frosty talks in Beijing came after South Korea’s president said earlier in the day that he expected Mr. Kim to soon meet the Chinese and Russian leaders, as Pyongyang courts support from its traditional partners.

During the meeting, Mr. Wang said that Beijing and Washington needed a healthy and stable bilateral relationship to discuss sensitive matters like North Korea. His comments appeared to suggest that the U.S. shouldn’t take Beijing’s cooperation on North Korea for granted.

Mr. Pompeo said he wanted to share details of his weekend visit to Pyongyang and to make sure that Beijing and Washington were working together to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

He added, however, that he regretted that China chose not to hold the diplomatic and security dialogue—a supposedly annual meeting between Chinese and U.S. diplomats and military officials that had been due to take place in mid-October.

As reporters were ushered out of the room, Mr. Wang said it wasn’t China’s decision to cancel the dialogue.

In another sign of friction between the two sides, Mr. Pompeo didn’t hold a joint news conference with Mr. Wang.

A senior State Department official asserted Mr. Wang’s remarks didn’t come as a surprise, and that North Korea was a “big part of the conversation.”

Asked if the U.S. was still expecting Chinese cooperation in enforcing sanctions on North Korea, the official said: “Sanctions remain an important part of the overall campaign to bring North Korea to the negotiating table.”

But in July, the U.S. complained publicly that Chinese and Russian firms were continuing to help North Korea important oil in excess of U.N. stipulated caps.

Later, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news briefing that he didn’t think tensions between Washington and Beijing would affect cooperation on North Korea.

Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, said on Monday that he expected Mr. Kim to travel to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin and for Mr. Xi to visit North Korea in the near future. Mr. Moon added that a summit between Mr. Kim and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also “open.”

“A new order is being created on the Korean Peninsula,” Mr. Moon told a cabinet meeting, according to a transcript provided by the presidential office.

North Korean state media has reported that a meeting among officials from China, Russia, and North Korea would be held. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, who has participated in recent nuclear negotiations with the U.S., was in Beijing in recent days and was expected in Moscow to set up the meeting, North Korean media said.

Russia confirmed that plans were being made through diplomatic channels for Mr. Kim to visit Moscow.

“So far I cannot give you any specific information on this matter,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov said. “The possible dates, place and format of such a visit are being worked out.”

Mr. Kim, whose trip to China in March was his first outside North Korea as leader, is likely to request support from Beijing and Moscow as he presses the U.S. for concessions in denuclearization talks.

World War Three alert: ‘You CAN’T stop us sailing there’ US warship heads into China Sea

THE UNITED States have taken tensions with China to a new high by “asserting their right” to sail warships past disputed islands in the South China Sea.

China warn US Navy for flying past South China Sea islands

A guided-missile destroyer, USS Decatur sailed within 12 nautical miles (13.8 miles on land) of reefs near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, two US officials claim.

China has asserted ownership of the Spratly islands, something which was hotly contested by the US officials as “excessive maritime claims”.

Speaking to CNN, one of the officials said: “US Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including the South China Sea. All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.

The official said these operations “challenge excessive maritime claims and demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.”

China has engaged in an ongoing dispute with the US over territorial control in the South China Sea.

In 2015, the US began deploying military warships and aircraft to the region, in a bid to dismiss China’s territorial claims.

Last week, on September 25, Chinese officials warned the UK to stay out of the conflict after Royal Navy Warships were spotted close to the disputed territory in the South China Sea.

Officials quoted China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi as saying: “China hopes that Britain will truly implement its position of not taking sides in the South China Sea issue, earnestly respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and not do anything to disturb mutual trust between the two countries.”

world war 3 china united states

Tensions between China and the United states have escalated (Image: GettyImages)

China south sea

China has aggressively claimed islands in the South China Sea (Image: GettyImages)

donald trump china trade

Donald Trump’s administration have imposed further tariffs on Chinese goods (Image: GettyImages)

Tensions between China and the US have been steadily mounting on multiple fronts, as the two nations clash on military power, trade and cyber-warfare.

On September 26, US President Donald Trump accused China of meddling in elections with the intention of harming him personally.

Mr Trump said: “They do not want me, or us, to win because I am the first President ever to challenge China on trade.”

His comments came a week after his administration announced a 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, which would eventually mean half the products China sells to the US would be penalized.

Mr Wang said: “International trade is complementary and win-win by nature. It should not be a zero-sum game in which one gains at the expense of others, and no one should be allowed to place its own interest above the interest of others.”

US Secretary of Defence James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that the two nations would have to learn to manage their differences.

Where did the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch come from? How do we stop it?


The water bottle could be from Los Angeles, the food container from Manila, the plastic bag from Shanghai.

But whatever its source, almost all of the trash in theinfamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from countries around the Pacific Rim.

Concerned about the millions of tons of garbage in the patch – a floating blob halfway between California and Hawaii that’s twice the size of Texas – the Ocean Cleanup project is sending out a giant floating trash collector to try to scoop it up. The first of its cleanup systems launches Saturday near San Francisco.

It’s a daunting task: The patch includes about 1.8 trillion pieces of trash and weighs 88,000 tons – the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets.

And while many scientists say it’s great that people are trying to clean up the patch, others say most of the efforts should instead go toward stopping the out-of-control flow of plastic garbage into the ocean.

How much more? Try putting 95 percent of the efforts on stopping plastic from entering the ocean and only 5 percent on cleanup, says Richard Thompson, head of the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom.

Thompson said a global-scale effort is needed to combat the problem, one that includes contributions from individuals, policymakers and industry. “The way we use plastics – from design to use to disposal – must be done more efficiently and in a more environmentally friendly manner.”

George Leonard, chief scientist with the Ocean Conservatory, said: “The clock is ticking. We must confront this challenge before plastics overwhelm the ocean.”

Go deeper: See how the Great Pacific Garbage Patch feeds off our throw-away culture

More: 6 things you can do to stop plastic pollution today

Where does it come from?

First discovered in the early 1990s, the garbage patch’s trash comes from countries around the Pacific Rim, including nations in Asia and North and South America, said Laurent Lebreton of the Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

But specifically, scientists say, the bulk of the garbage patch trash comes from China and other Asian countries.

This shouldn’t be a surprise: Overall, worldwide, most of the plastic trash in the ocean comes from Asia. In fact, the top six countries for ocean garbage are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand, according to a 2015 study in the journal Science.

The United States contributes as much as 242 million pounds of plastic trash to the ocean every year, according to that study.

China has begun to take steps to stem the tide of trash floating from its shores. The country recently banned the import of most plastic waste, according to a study published in June in Science Advances.

China has imported about 45 percent of the world’s plastic waste since 1992 for recycling, the study found. In the U.S. alone, nearly 4,000 shipping containers full of plastic recyclables a day had been shipped to Chinese recycling plants.

Now where will all that waste go?

“It’s hard to predict what will happen to the plastic waste that was once destined for Chinese processing facilities,” said Jenna Jambeck, associate professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Engineering and co-author of the study. “Some of it could be diverted to other countries, but most of them lack the infrastructure to manage their own waste, let alone the waste produced by the rest of the world.”

That decision means the U.S. and other industrialized countries that have been exporting their plastic waste to China for recycling will need to find new ways to handle the disposal of their trash, because much of it is already starting to pile up in landfills.

The trash in the ocean could be around for a very long time:  “Most plastics don’t biodegrade in any meaningful sense, so the plastic waste humans have generated could be with us for hundreds or even thousands of years,” Jambeck said.

Because plastic has been around only since the 1950s, there’s no way of knowing exactly how long it will last in the ocean. If left alone, the plastic could remain there for decades, centuries or even longer, Jambeck said.

And we’re talking a lot of trash.

Every year, an estimated 8 million to 12 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons already in our marine environments, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

Whether by errant plastic bags or plastic straws winding their way into gutters or large amounts of mismanaged plastic waste streaming from rapidly growing economies, that’s like dumping one New York City garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day for an entire year.

Ocean microplastics have lasting effects on the ocean: Fish and other marine life mistake the pieces for food and consume them, potentially cutting their digestive tracts, or filling their stomachs so there’s no room for real food, allowing chemicals and contamination to enter the organism and harm it. It can take weeks for the plastic pieces sink to the ocean floor as they become heavier after being eaten and excreted by fish and other animals or becoming covered with bacteria and other organisms. At the ocean floor they can harm deep-sea organisms then eventually covered in silt and entombed on the sea bed.

From the tiniest plankton to the largest whales, plastics affect nearly 700 species in the ocean. And, incredibly, trash has reached the stomachs of some of the deepest fish in the ocean.

Researchers said 73 percent of deepwater fish in the North Atlantic Ocean had eaten particles of plastic, known as microplastics. That’s among the highest percentages ever found in fish on Earth, according to a recent study.

Another study by the British research firm Eunomia said there may be as much as 70 million tons of plastic waste on the sea floor alone.

And it’s not just fish or marine life that’s affected, it’s us: Rolf Halden, a professor of environmental health engineering at Arizona State University, said every human being in the developed world has traces of plastic constituents in his or her blood.

More: Top 10 trash items found littering our beaches and waterways — and the weirdest

More: Boba, or bubble tea, shops wrestle with plastic straw ban

More: Starbucks to scrap plastic straws globally by 2020

African swine flu is causing alarm in China—and beyond

Can it be contained?

AS CHINA’S agriculture authorities scramble to contain the spread of a pig-killing virus, experts worry that it could spread elsewhere in Asia. But the consequences of the disease at home are bad enough. Pork is China’s favourite meat. Pig farming is big business. The collapse of its market would hamper economic growth. Badly handled, the outbreak could dent the government’s credibility.

The disease was first reported on August 3rd, when it was noted that 47 out of 383 pigs on a small farm in Liaoning, a province in the far north-east, had died. The virus has spread to five other provinces: Anhui, Henan, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. The authorities have stepped up inspections, shut some live markets, stopped the transport of pigs from the affected areas and culled nearly 40,000 swine. On September 5th the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) held an emergency meeting of regional animal-health experts in Bangkok. The rapid onset of the disease in China and its spread to places 1,000km apart mean it could easily jump across China’s borders, says the FAO.

A number of big rural districts with plenty of pig farms fall within the territory of Beijing, the capital. City officials say they are taking measures to screen them, check sanitation and impose quarantine. However, at several pig farms in Shunyi and Huairou districts, 60km north of Beijing’s city centre, workers said no special measures had yet been taken. One said he had never even heard of African swine fever, as the disease is known.

The virus spreads easily between pigs, killing nearly all it infects. But health experts across the world agree that it cannot spread to humans, even through eating the meat of an infected pig. The Chinese, however, tend to mistrust official pronouncements on such matters, so the website of the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official organ, was widely mocked when its headline declared that everyone should be “at ease about eating pork”. Indeed, many assumed that something must be wrong with it. He Qinglian, an exiled critic of the party, said on Twitter that chefs should lay 100 tables on Tiananmen Square so that agriculture officials could publicly eat the pork of the infected pigs.

Foreign observers are likely to be just as wary. The Chinese authorities have a long history of dissembling about diseases that affect both humans and animals, including the SARS crisis of 2003 and an outbreak of another porcine infection, blue-ear pig disease, in 2007. In both cases China played down the severity of the crises and stonewalled inquiries from foreign governments and international agencies. This year American health officials have accused China of violating agreements and withholding lab samples of another deadly disease, the H7N9 flu virus, which can infect both poultry and humans.

This time the pig fever is stoking fears of inflation. The cost of pork has an inordinate effect on the consumer-price index. With a fifth of the world’s population, China consumes half its pork. The government has set up a strategic pork reserve to keep the price stable. The blue-ear pig-disease episode of 2007 provoked a rise of 87% in pork prices and one of the biggest leaps in inflation for nearly two decades.

Inflation now is at its highest rate in four months. The consumer-price index rose 1.9% in June and 2.1% in July. An editorial on September 4th in Caixin, an influential financial publication, said that Chinese history had taught “painful lessons about the dangers of inflation” and the government had “a rare time-window to prevent inflation from escalating”. The spread of African swine fever will not make it any easier to control.

The timing is particularly awkward since the outbreak coincided with the much-vaunted Forum on China-Africa Co-operation, hosted by Xi Jinping, China’s leader, on September 3rd and 4th in Beijing, to win African hearts, minds and business deals. The last thing the event’s promoters wanted to see was the word “African” attached to a story about dying pigs. An official at Beijing’s Agriculture Bureau said the topic was “too sensitive” to discuss while the forum was under way and suggested that your correspondent find something else to write about.

A lethal game of chicken: the next trade war with China could be a matter of life and death

A lethal game of chicken: the next trade war with China could be a matter of life and death


The most important trade war to come may have nothing to do with cars, steel or soybeans. It may involve a virus.

The vast agricultural enterprise in southern China is the source of most new flu strains. Under rules established by the World Health Organization in 2011, China has routinely shared samples of them with researchers in the United States and other countries where vaccines are developed. But recent trade tensions may be leading it to change course.

Influenza is a serious disease. The seasonal variety kills thousands of people worldwide each year. But its impact pales in comparison with pandemic flu. That is the kind that emerges every few years and spreads like wildfire around the globe, sometimes killing millions – as it did in 1918.

Public health officials fear that a new flu pandemic may be on its way. A strain of bird flu known as H7N9 originated among poultry in China in 2013 and evolved into a form that can infect humans. It reportedly kills 40% of those who become ill. It has not yet spread beyond China and is not yet contagious from human to humans, with only about 1,600 reported casesso far. However, should it mutate into a form that can be spread between people, the threat could be worldwide.

A vaccine against H7N9 could save thousands of lives – maybe millions. However, China is refusing to share virus samples despite repeated requests. It has even refused to share clinical data on infected patients. Information flowed freely soon after the strain first emerged, but it has slowed to a stop. Researchers have obtained a few samples from Taiwan and Hong Kong, but those may not be enough to develop a vaccine.

China claims that it has almost eradicated the virus with a single poultry vaccination campaign, so further vaccine development is not needed. But public health experts are not reassured, since mutations are always possible.

This is not the first time China has been secretive about a pandemic threat. In 2002, it hid information on SARS, and in 2005, it hoarded samples of a previous bird flu strain, H5N1. But until recently, it had been cooperating with the World Health Organization’s more recent rules on sharing flu strain samples.

Why the sudden secretiveness? One possibility is that China is trying to avoid harm to its poultry industry. Another is that it is looking for a head-start over the U.S. and other countries in developing a vaccine on its own.

However, the is also a strong possibility that it is responding to the brewing trade war with the U.S.

Among the Chinese exports on which the U.S. has threatened to impose tariffs are pharmaceutical products, including vaccines, and other medical supplies. Virus samples seem to be part of the mix of products over which we are negotiating, even though no one actually owns them so tariffs should not apply. China may be waiting for the outcome of those talks before allowing virus samples out of the country.

While the United States and China trade tariff threats, the risk grows that we will be unprepared if a pandemic arrives. The fight over bird flu samples is a game of chicken in more ways than one, and it could have lethal consequences.

International trade is more than just an economic issue, as important as that is. It is also a matter of public health. Unless our trade policy recognizes that as a priority, a lot more may be at stake than the prices we pay for imported goods.


Robert I. Field, JD, MPH, PhD, is professor of law and public health at Drexel University and is the founder and editor of the Health Cents blog.