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Beijing Vows to ‘Take Necessary Actions’ After UK Aircraft Strike Group Passes Through S. China Sea

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Last week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned London against military muscle-flexing after the UK announced plans to permanently assign two British warships to Asian waters.

Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Chinese National Defence Ministry has warned that Beijing may respond in kind to a UK aircraft carrier strike group sailing through the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The spokesman told reporters on Friday that the ministry respects freedom of navigation but firmly opposes any naval activities that may provoke controversy.

“The action should never try to destabilise regional peace, including the latest military collaboration between the UK and Japan. The Chinese Navy will take any necessary actions to counter-measure such behavior”, Wu pointed out.

He was echoed by the state-run Chinese tabloid Global Times, that noted “the very idea of a British presence in the South China Sea is dangerous”.


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REUTERS / Peter Nicholls

The Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth, Britain August 16, 2017

“If London tries to establish a military presence in the region with geopolitical significance, it will only disrupt the status quo in the region […]. And if there is any real action against China, it is looking for a defeat”, the news outlet noted.

The claims come after a spokesperson for Britain’s Ministry of Defence said the HMS Queen Elizabeth strike group was lawfully navigating the South China Sea, “just as one third of global shipping does on an annual basis”.

Aside from Beijing, the contested waters of the South China Sea are claimed by a number of countries, such as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The US has no claims to the area, but it often conducts so-called “freedom of navigation” missions there, resulting in condemnation from Beijing.

Beijing Warns not to Flex Muscles Against China

Wu’s statement on Friday follows the Chinese Foreign Ministry pointing out last week that Beijing “firmly opposes the practice of flexing muscles at China”, adding that London’s drive to send warships to Asia “undermines China’s sovereignty and security, and harms regional peace and stability”.

This was preceded by British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stating earlier this month that “following on from the [Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier] strike group’s inaugural deployment, the United Kingdom will permanently assign two ships in the [Indo-Pacific] region from later this year”. 

According to Wallace, the deployment of HMS Spey and HMS Tamar, the Royal Navy’s new River-class offshore patrol vessels, aims to support operations with Australia, Japan, and Singapore, as well as presumably the United States.


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AP Photo / Bullit Marquez

Chinese structures and buildings on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are seen 18 kilometers (11 miles) away from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea

The defence secretary announced the decision after a meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi of Japan, stressing that London and Tokyo had a duty “to protect those that are unable to protect themselves from adversaries that will threaten them”.

Wallace touted the strike group’s Indo-Pacific mission in April, when he stressed that it “will be flying the flag for Global Britain” to protect the country’s “influence” and reaffirm the UK’s “commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow”.

He made the remarks after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented the country’s new foreign policy review to British lawmakers in late March, a document that specifically said the Indo-Pacific region was “increasingly [becoming] the geopolitical centre of the world”.

The review also argued that Beijing’s increasing power and assertiveness are likely to become the main “geopolitical factor” of the current decade, urging Britain to make more of an effort to adapt to China’s growing impact on the world.



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Brexit: British Embassy launches survey on key issues affecting UK nationals in Spain | Brexit | International

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The British Embassy in Madrid has launched a survey aimed at finding out how UK nationals in Spain have been affected by key issues, in particular, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, a process commonly known as Brexit.

The poll is for Britons who are full-time residents in Spain (not those with second homes) and are covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, i.e. they were officially registered in the country before December 31, 2020, when the so-called Transition Period came to an end.

Questions in the survey address issues such as access to healthcare and the uptake of the TIE residency cards, which were introduced as a replacement for green residency cards (either the credit-card size or the A4 sheet version, officially known as the Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión).

As we approach a year since the end of the Transition Period, we really want to hear from you about the key issues…

Posted by Brits in Spain on Friday, September 17, 2021

The aim of the poll is to gather vital information on the experience of UK nationals living in Spain that will help the British Embassy provide feedback to Spanish authorities. The survey takes around 10 minutes to complete, and all answers are confidential.

Have you heard our Spanish news podcast ¿Qué? Each week we try to explain the curious, the under-reported and sometimes simply bizarre news stories that are often in the headlines in Spain.



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‘The challenge for us now is drought, not war’: livelihoods of millions of Afghans at risk | Global development

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The war in Afghanistan might be over but farmers in Kandahar’s Arghandab valley face a new enemy: drought.

It has hardly rained for two years, a drought so severe that some farmers are questioning how much longer they can live off the land.

Mohammed Rahim, 30, grew up working on a farm along with his father and grandfather in the Arghandab district of Afghanistan’s southern province. Famous for its fruit and vegetables, the area is known as the bread basket of Kandahar.

Like most in the valley, Rahim’s family relies solely on farming. “The fighting has just stopped. Peace has returned,” Rahim says. “But now we face another war: drought.

“Now we have to dig deep to pump water out of the land. It has been two years, there has been little rain and we have a drought here. I don’t know if our coming generations can rely on farming the way our ancestors used to do.”

Pir Mohammed, 60, has been a farmer for more than four decades. “Not long ago, there were water channels flowing into the farm and we were providing the remaining water to other farmers,” says Mohammed. “Before, the water was running after us, flowing everywhere – but now we are running after water.”

The water used to come free from the river but now the daily diesel cost for the water pump is at least 2,500 Afghani (£21).

“We don’t make any profit. We are in loss, rather. Instead, we are using our savings. But we don’t have any other option as we do it for survival,” says Mohammed. “However, the scarcity of water has affected the quality of crops as well.”

About 70% of Afghans live in rural areas and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of drought.

Last week, Rein Paulsen, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience, said severe drought was affecting 7.3 million people in 25 of the country’s 34 provinces.

He warned: “If agriculture collapses further, it will drive up malnutrition, increase displacement and worsen the humanitarian situation.”

Arghandab has been a favourite destination for farming because of the abundance of water and fertile lands. Neikh Mohammed, 40, left the Dand district of Kandahar to work in Arghandab in 2005. When he arrived he was amazed to see the greenery and pomegranate farms.

A dam affected by drought in Kandahar.
A dried up dam in Kandahar. A majority of Afghans are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of drought, as they live in rural areas. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

“It used to rain a lot here and we could not cross the river and come into our farms. We had a life with abundant water. But the past is another country now,” he says.

According to a report by the UN mission in Afghanistan, many local farmers were caught in the crossfire between the Taliban and the Afghan security forces. The Taliban carried out attacks from thick foliage on the farms, which provided a hiding place, ideal for an ambush.

“For the past 20 years, we did not have peace and could not work after dark in our farms. But now we can stay as long as we want without any fear,” says Neikh Mohammed. “Now the challenge is not just restoring peace but the drought and escalating cost of essential commodities.”

Farmers say they want support from international aid agencies and assistance from the new government headed by the Taliban to help them survive.

Pir Mohammed says: “The real challenge for us now is drought, not war. We need food, water, dams and infrastructure in our country. The world should invest in us and save us.”

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[Ticker] US to lift Covid travel-ban on EU tourists

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Fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the UK will be let back into the US from “early November” onward, the White House said on Monday, ending an 18-month ban and prompting airline firms’ shares to climb. “This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans … safe,” a US spokesman said. The EU recently recommended increased restrictions on US visitors, amid anger at lack of US reciprocity.

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