China announced on Friday it was halting dialogue with the United States in a number of areas, including between theatre-level military commanders and on climate change, in a furore over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.
China's foreign ministry said it was also suspending exchanges with Washington on countering cross-border crime and drug trafficking, all moves Washington called "irresponsible."
Enraged when Pelosi became the highest-level US visitor in 25 years to the self-governed island that Beijing regards as its territory, China launched military drills in the seas and skies around Taiwan on Thursday. The live-fire drills, the largest ever conducted by China in the Taiwan Strait, are scheduled to continue until noon on Sunday.
Taiwan's defence ministry said on Friday it scrambled jets to warn away Chinese aircraft that it said entered the island's air defence zone, some of which crossed the Taiwan Strait median line, an unofficial buffer separating the two sides.
A total of 68 Chinese military aircraft and 13 navy ships had conducted missions in the strait, the ministry said.
China's Eastern Theatre Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) said in a statement it conducted air and sea drills to the north, southwest and east of Taiwan on Friday "to test the troops' joint combat capabilities."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington has repeatedly made clear to Beijing it does not seek a crisis over Pelosi's visit to Taiwan earlier this week during a congressional tour of Asia.
"There is no justification for this extreme, disproportionate and escalatory military response," he told a news conference on the sidelines of Asean regional meetings in Cambodia, adding, "Now, they've taken dangerous acts to a new level".
Blinken emphasised that the United States would not take actions to provoke a crisis, but it would continue to support regional allies and conduct standard air and maritime transit through the Taiwan Strait.
"We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows," he said.
A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Chinese officials had not responded to calls made by senior Pentagon officials this week, but the move was seen as China showing displeasure over the Pelosi trip rather than severing the channel between senior defence officials including US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told a media briefing after the Asean meetings: "I heard that US Secretary of State Blinken held his news conference and spread some misinformation and was not speaking truthfully."
"We wish to issue a warning to the United States: Do not act rashly, do not create a greater crisis," Wang said.
Jing Quan, a senior Chinese Embassy official in Washington, echoed that, telling a briefing: "The only way out of this crisis is that the US side must take measures immediately to rectify its mistakes and eliminate the grave impact of Pelosi's visit."
He said Washington should "avoid pushing China-US relations down the dangerous track of conflict and confrontation".
"There's nothing here for the United States to rectify. The Chinese can go a long way to taking the tensions down simply by stopping these provocative military exercises and ending the rhetoric," Kirby told reporters.
China has not mentioned a suspension of military talks at the senior-most levels, such as with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. While those talks have been infrequent, officials have said they are important to have in the case of an emergency or accident.
Kirby said it was not atypical for China to shut down military talks at times of tension, but that "not all channels" between the two countries' military leaders had been cut off.
The Pentagon said China was overreacting and that Washington was still open to building crisis communication mechanisms.
"Part of this overreaction has been strictly limiting its defence engagements when any responsible state would recognize that we need them now the most," Acting Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale said.
Beijing separately announced that it would impose sanctions on Pelosi personally and her immediate family in response to her "vicious" and "provocative" actions. read more
Speaking at a news conference in Japan after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Pelosi said her trip to Asia was "not about changing the status quo in Taiwan or the region."
Taiwan's defence ministry said on Friday the island's military had dispatched aircraft and ships and deployed land-based missile systems to monitor ships and aircraft that briefly crossed the Taiwan Strait median line.
On Thursday, China fired multiple missiles into waters surrounding Taiwan.
Japan's defence ministry, which is tracking the exercises, first reported that as many as four of the missiles flew over Taiwan's capital, which is unprecedented. It also said that five of nine missiles fired toward its territory landed in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), also a first, prompting a diplomatic protest by Tokyo.
Later, Taiwan's defence ministry said the missiles were high in the atmosphere and constituted no threat.
Some Taipei residents, including Mayor Ko Wen-je, criticised the government for not putting out a missile alert, but one security expert said that could have been done to avoid stoking panic and playing into China's hands.
"It counteracted the effect of the Chinese Communist Party's psychological warfare," said Mei Fu-shin, a US-based analyst.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen urged residents not to panic, saying in a Facebook post: "Please rest assured, stay calm and live as normal."
Bonnie Glaser, a Washington-based Asia security specialist at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said China may be rehearsing for a blockade, "demonstrating it can block Taiwan's ports and airports and prevent shipping."
Taiwan has been self-ruled since 1949, when Mao Zedong's communists took power in Beijing after defeating Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) nationalists in a civil war, prompting the KMT-led government to retreat to the island.
Beijing has said its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter, and that it reserves the right to bring Taiwan under Chinese control, by force if necessary.
The United Nations has said they do not deploy observers to elections like Bangladesh one, noting that they rarely do that without a specific mandate.
"The UN is not deploying observers to these elections. We don't… we rarely, rarely do that without a specific mandate," Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at a regular briefing on November 29.
He said they have seen the reports from Human Rights Watch and other organisations.
"We again call on all parties involved to ensure that people are able to express their votes freely, their opinion freely, free of any harassment,” the spokesman said.
Candidates of 30 political parties out of 44 registered political parties have submitted nomination papers for the January 7 national election.
The United States has said it is aware of Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova's “deliberate mischaracterization” of US foreign policy and US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas’ meetings.
“The United States does not support any political party in Bangladesh. Nor does the United States favor one political party over another,” a State Department spokesperson said on Saturday.
The US State Department reiterated that they want what the Bangladeshi people want: free and fair elections conducted in a peaceful manner.
To support that shared goal of free and fair elections conducted in a peaceful manner, the US embassy personnel engage and will continue to engage with the government, opposition, civil society, and other stakeholders to urge them to work together for the benefit of the Bangladeshi people, said the State Department spokesperson.
Maria Zakharova, during a weekly briefing on November 22, said that Russia has spoken repeatedly about the attempts by the United States and its allies to influence the internal political process in Bangladesh, ostensibly under the banner of ensuring “transparency and inclusiveness” in the upcoming parliamentary election.
Information has come to light regarding a meeting at the end of October between US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas and a high-ranking representative of the local opposition, according to the Russian side.
They reportedly discussed plans to organize mass anti-government protests in the country during the meeting, the Russian side said.
In particular, the American Ambassador “promised” the representative of the opposition information support in the event that the authorities use force against participants in “peaceful demonstrations.”
These assurances were purportedly made on behalf of the embassies of the United States, Britain, Australia and several other countries, according to a Facebook post shared by the Russian Embassy in Dhaka.
"How can these actions of the American Ambassador to Bangladesh be regarded? They can be seen as nothing less than gross interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state on the part of Washington and its satellites, demonstrating open disregard for the norms and rules enshrined in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," the Russian spokeswoman said.
"On our part, we have no doubts regarding the ability of the Bangladeshi authorities to hold the parliamentary election scheduled for January 7, 2024, in full compliance with national legislation, independently, without the help of overseas well-wishers," said the Russian spokeswoman.
Bangladesh has underlined the need for early conclusion of the Teesta agreement and other water-sharing treaties of common rivers as foreign secretaries of Bangladesh and India held a meeting at Hyderabad House here this afternoon.
In the meeting styled Bangladesh-India Foreign Office Consultation (FOC), the Bangladesh side also stressed on removing trade barriers from Bangladesh's exportable goods and uninterrupted supply of essential commodities between the two countries.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and his Indian Counterpart Vinay Mohan Kwatra led their respective sides in the meeting that also discussed wide range of bilateral issues covering from border security to trade and commerce and water, power and energy cooperation.
After the meeting, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh issued separate statements in New Delhi and Dhaka on the FOC, an institutional dialogue mechanism between the foreign secretaries to review the entire gamut of bilateral relations.
The foreign ministry statement said that the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary requested his counterpart to deepen and expand the people-to-people contacts and sought India's assistance in resolving Rohingya crisis.
The two sides also stressed on deepening collaboration for greater prosperity of the people of the two friendly countries.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary thanked the Government of India for inviting Bangladesh Prime Minister to attend the "G20 Leaders' Summit" as the only South Asian leader under India's G20 Presidency.
Both the Foreign Secretaries expressed satisfaction over the existing bilateral relations and the progress made in the year 2023.
Referring to the recent inauguration of number of projects for enhancing connectivity and power and energy sector cooperation by the two Prime Ministers, they said that this sort of cooperation reflects the tangible outcomes of the strong bilateral relations.
The two foreign secretaries further emphasized bolstering cooperation in important areas such as development, trade and commerce, regional connectivity, regional power grid connection, security and water related issues, consular and cultural issues.
They also discussed to address the challenges to be faced by Bangladesh during post-graduation scenario. Both the sides reiterated that the two border guard forces should continue their cooperation to have a peaceful border.
According to MEA statement issued here the two sides reviewed entire gamut of bilateral relations as they held comprehensive discussions on a wide range of issues covering border and security, trade, commerce and connectivity, cooperation in water, power and energy sectors, people to people ties and development cooperation in Bangladesh.
Apart from bilateral issues, the both sides also exchanged views on sub-regional, regional and multilateral issues.
The Indian side appreciated Bangladesh's participation in the recently held Virtual G20 summit and the Voice of Global South Summit 2.0.
The meeting agreed that the next FOC will be hosted by Bangladesh on a mutually convenient date.
This was the second Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) between Bangladesh and India this year as the first one was held in February in Dhaka.
An Israeli man whose
family was kidnapped by Hamas and freed on Friday said he was happy but could
not celebrate their return without the release of all those still held in the
Hamas released 13 Israeli hostages on the first day of a truce in the Palestinian territory, bringing the total number of captives released to 29 of around 240 taken when the Islamist group launched its deadly October 7 attack on Israel.
Yoni Asher was at home near Tel Aviv that day when his wife Doron Asher Katz, 34, and their two children, aged two and four, where kidnapped while visiting Doron's mother, 69-year-old Efrat Katz, who was killed during the attack.
"I am happy that I received my family back. It's allowed to feel joy and it's allowed to shed a tear. That's a human thing," Asher said in a video released by the Hostage Families Forum on Friday evening.
"But I am not celebrating. I will not celebrate until the last of the hostages returns home," he added.
"Our children, fathers, mothers, sisters are currently hostages. There are people whose hearts are breaking at this time and I want to ensure that each and every hostage returns home."
Doron's brother and her mother's partner were also kidnapped and are still being held hostage in Gaza.
"I am determined to help my family recover from the terrible trauma and loss we went through", Asher said. "Difficult days are still ahead of me."
The renewable agreement that led to their release covers four days during which 50 hostages held in Gaza must be released, as well as 150 Palestinians held in Israel.
On Friday, 39 Palestinian women and children were released from Israeli prisons.
Ten Thai hostages and one Filippino were also released Friday in a separate agreement, according to Qatar, which led the negotiations along with Egypt and the United States.
Dhaka occupied the top spot in the list of cities around the world with the worst air quality Friday morning.
With an air quality index (AQI) score of 323 at 9:30 am, Dhaka’s air remained in the ‘hazardous’ zone, according to IQAir.
Pakistan’s Lahore, and India’s Kolkata and Delhi occupied the second, third, and fourth spots in the list, with AQI scores of 306, 284, and 216, respectively.
An AQI between 151 and 200 is considered "unhealthy," 201 and 300 "very unhealthy," and 301 to 400 is considered "hazardous," posing serious health risks to residents.
In Bangladesh, the AQI is based on five criteria pollutants – particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), NO2, CO, SO2, and ozone.
Dhaka has long been grappling with air pollution issues. Its air quality usually turns unhealthy in winter and improves during the monsoon.
Air pollution consistently ranks among the top risk factors for death and disability worldwide.
Breathing polluted air has long been recognised as increasing a person's chances of developing heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, lung infections, and cancer, according to several studies.
The United Nations has said they do not deploy observers to elections like Bangladesh one, noting that they rarely do that without a specific mandate. "The UN is not deploying observers to these elections. We don't… we rarely, rarely do that without a specific mandate," Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at a regular briefing on November 29.
An Israeli man whose family was kidnapped by Hamas and freed on Friday said he was happy but could not celebrate their return without the release of all those still held in the Gaza Strip. Hamas released 13 Israeli hostages on the first day of a truce in the Palestinian territory, bringing the total number of captives released to 29 of around 240 taken when the Islamist group launched its deadly October 7 attack on Israel.