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US, Chinese warships’ near miss in Taiwan Strait hints at ongoing troubled diplomatic waters, despite chatter about talks

What was behind the latest encounter between US and Chinese military vessels in contested waters?



The USS Chung-Hoon observes a Chinese navy ship cross into its path. Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andre T. Richard/U.S. Navy via AP

An encounter in which a Chinese naval ship cut across the path of a U.S. destroyer in the Taiwan Strait on June 3, 2023, has both Beijing and Washington pointing fingers at each other.

It was the second near miss in the space of just a few weeks; in late May a Chinese plane crossed in front of an American surveillance aircraft above the South China Sea.

Meredith Oyen, an expert on China-U.S. relations at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, helps explain the context of the recent encounters and how they fit within growing tensions between the two countries.

What do we know about the Taiwan Strait incident?

It came as the U.S. and Canada were conducting a joint transit of the Taiwan Strait – a body of water that separates the island of Taiwan from mainland China. Washington does these transits fairly regularly, but not usually with another country.

As the American destroyer USS Chung-Hoon and Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal traveled up the channel, a Chinese warship passed and veered across the U.S. vessel’s path at a pretty close range, according to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. As a result, the USS Chung-Hoon had to reduce its speed to avoid a collision.

The U.S. has characterized the incident as an “unsafe” maneuver on behalf of the Chinese and protested that it took place in international waters.

The perspective from Beijing is that the U.S. and Canada were “deliberately provoking risk” by sailing a warship through Chinese waters.

Who is right? Did it take place in international or Chinese waters?

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that a country’s “territorial waters” extend 12 nautical miles off its coast – anything above or on the sea in that zone is considered part of the country’s territory. After that, there is a further 12-mile “contiguous zone,” over which a coastal state has rights to prevent infringement of the country’s “customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary” laws, according to the UN treaty.

An aerial shot shows blue waters and two green land masses.
The Taiwan Strait. Gallo Images/Orbital Horizon/Copernicus Sentinel Data

Complicating matters, Beijing – a signatory to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, unlike the U.S. – claims the island of Taiwan as part of China. Under the U.N. convention’s stipulations, this would also mean Beijing can claim the 12 miles of territorial waters off Taiwan’s coast, as well as a 12-mile contiguous zone.

But even at its narrowest point, the Taiwan Strait is around 86 miles wide. So even accepting Beijing’s territorial claim, there would, under U.N. law, be a channel that falls outside its territory.

Nonetheless, Beijing claims sovereignty of the entirety of the waters between Taiwan and China under its exclusive economic zone.

Despite not signing the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, the U.S. abides by the 12-mile standard and views a large chunk of the strait as international waters.

How common are these ‘near misses’?

The United States has regularly sailed vessels through the Taiwan Strait for decades. At times of tension – notably during the Korean War and Taiwan Straits crises of 1954-55, 1958 and 1962 – the U.S. has deployed destroyers in the channel as a deliberate show of military strength and support for Taiwan.

This continued after the U.S. normalized relations with China in 1978 until today, with few incidents that caused the level of tit-for-tat recriminations such as in the latest case. But there have been “near misses” in the sky, noticeably the recent airplane-to-airplane encounter that preceded this incident.

What we have increasingly seen, though, is Chinese officials protest these Taiwan Strait transits by the U.S. And the number of protests by China has increased in recent years, as tension over Taiwan has increased.

How does this incident fit growing maritime tension in the region?

The past few years have seen a deterioration in U.S.-China relations. There have been no direct, high-level military talks between the two countries since 2019. Meanwhile, relations have further soured on other topics, such as the ongoing trade war, the issue of Taiwan and allegations relating to the spread of COVID-19.

At times of better relations between Beijing and Washington, military transits such as the one in the Taiwan Strait might have gone largely unremarked upon. But amid such tensions, any incident is elevated to the level of uniquely bad provocation.

The broader context is that the U.S. regularly holds military drills and “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea. These activities are used by the U.S. Department of Defense to demonstrate that the U.S. has a right to sail in waters it views as international, even if they are claimed by nation states.

The concern is that with tensions as they are – and with no official direct line of dialogue – a near miss during such a drill, or, worse still, an actual collision, could escalate beyond control, leading to military conflict.

Any significance over why this happened now?

The near miss came at a curious time – while top diplomats and defense chiefs from both the U.S. and China were attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

At that security summit, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin shook the hand of his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu. But they didn’t hold a side meeting – as some observers had hoped.

Austin also underscored the importance of the Taiwan Strait to Washington: “The whole world has a stake in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The security of commercial shipping lanes and global supply chains depends on it. And so does freedom of navigation worldwide. Make no mistake: conflict in the Taiwan Strait would be devastating.”

Washington has suggested that it wants to resume official talks with Beijing. Incidents such as that in the Taiwan Strait underscore the potential need for such discussions, if only to avoid encounters escalating into something more serious.

Meredith Oyen does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Via Middle East Eye,

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a secondary schoolgirl…



Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Via Middle East Eye,

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a secondary schoolgirl to 18 years in jail and a travel ban for posting tweets in support of political prisoners, according to a rights group.

On Friday, ALQST rights group, which documents human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, revealed that the Saudi Specialised Criminal Court handed out the sentence in August to 18-year-old Manal al-Gafiri, who was only 17 at the time of her arrest.

Via Reuters

The Saudi judiciary, under the de facto rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has issued several extreme prison sentences over cyber activism and the use of social media for criticising the government.

They include the recent death penalty against Mohammed al-Ghamdi, a retired teacher, for comments made on Twitter and YouTube, and the 34-year sentence of Leeds University doctoral candidate Salma al-Shehab over tweets last year.

The crown prince confirmed Ghamdi's sentence during a wide-ranging interview with Fox News on Wednesday. He blamed it on "bad laws" that he cannot change

"We are not happy with that. We are ashamed of that. But [under] the jury system, you have to follow the laws, and I cannot tell a judge [to] do that and ignore the law, because... that's against the rule of law," he said.

Saudi human rights defenders and lawyers, however, disputed Mohammed bin Salman's allegations and said the crackdown on social media users is correlated with his ascent to power and the introduction of new judicial bodies that have since overseen a crackdown on his critics. 

"He is able, with one word or the stroke of a pen, in seconds, to change the laws if he wants," Taha al-Hajji, a Saudi lawyer and legal consultant with the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, told Middle East Eye this week.

According to Joey Shea, Saudi Arabia researcher at Human Rights Watch, Ghamdi was sentenced under a counterterrorism law passed in 2017, shortly after Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince. The law has been criticised for its broad definition of terrorism.

Similarly, two new bodies - the Presidency of State Security and the Public Prosecution Office - were established by royal decrees in the same year.

Rights groups have said that the 2017 overhaul of the kingdom's security apparatus has significantly enabled the repression of Saudi opposition voices, including those of women rights defenders and opposition activists. 

"These violations are new under MBS, and it's ridiculous that he is blaming this on the prosecution when he and senior Saudi authorities wield so much power over the prosecution services and the political apparatus more broadly," Shea said, using a common term for the prince.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 11:30

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Biden To Join UAW Picket Line As Strike Expands, Good Luck Getting Repairs

Biden To Join UAW Picket Line As Strike Expands, Good Luck Getting Repairs

Authored by Mike Shedlock via,

In a symbolic, photo-op…



Biden To Join UAW Picket Line As Strike Expands, Good Luck Getting Repairs

Authored by Mike Shedlock via,

In a symbolic, photo-op gesture to win union votes, Biden will head to Michigan for a token visit.

Biden to Walk the Picket Line

Taking Sides

CNN had some Interesting comments on Biden Talking Sides.

Jeremi Suri, a presidential historian and professor at University of Texas at Austin, said he doesn’t believe any president has ever visited a picket line during a strike.

Presidents, including Biden, have previously declined to wade into union disputes to avoid the perception of taking sides on issues where the negotiating parties are often engaged in litigation.

On September 15, the day the strike started, Biden said that the automakers “should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.”

Some Democratic politicians have been urging Biden to do more. California Rep. Ro Khanna on Monday told CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich that Biden and other Democrats should join him on the picket line.

“I’d love to see the president out here,” he said, arguing the Democratic Party needs to demonstrate it’s “the party of the working class.”

UAW Announces New Strike Locations

As the strike enters a second week, UAW Announces New Strike Locations

UAW President Shawn Fain called for union members to strike at noon ET Friday at 38 General Motors and Stellantis facilities across 20 states. He said the strike call covers all of GM and Stellantis’ parts distribution facilities.

The strike call notably excludes Ford, the third member of Detroit’s Big Three, suggesting the UAW is more satisfied with the progress it has made on a new contract with that company.

General Motors plants being told to strike are in Pontiac, Belleville, Ypsilanti, Burton, Swartz Creek and Lansing, Michigan; West Chester, Ohio; Aurora, Colorado; Hudson, Wisconsin; Bolingbrook, Illinois; Reno, Nevada; Rancho Cucamonga, California; Roanoke, Texas; Martinsburg, West Virginia; Brandon, Mississippi; Charlotte, North Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; and Lang Horne, Pennsylvania.

The Stellantis facilities going on strike are in Marysville, Center Line, Warren, Auburn Hills, Romulus and Streetsboro, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Plymouth, Minnesota; Commerce City, Colorado; Naperville, Illinois; Ontario, California; Beaverton, Oregon; Morrow, Georgia; Winchester, Virginia; Carrollton, Texas; Tappan, New York; and Mansfield, Massachusetts.

Contract Negotiations Are Not Close

Good Luck Getting Repairs

Party of the Working Cass, Really?

Let’s discuss the nonsensical notion that Democrats are the party of the “working class”.

Unnecessary stimulus, reckless expansion of social services, student debt cancellation, eviction moratoriums, earned income credits, immigration policy, and forcing higher prices for all, to benefit the few, are geared towards the “unworking class”.

On top of it, Biden wants to take away your gas stove, end charter schools to protect incompetent union teachers, and force you into an EV that you do not want and for which infrastructure is not in place.

All of this increases inflation across the board as do sanctions and clean energy madness.

Exploring the Working Class Idea

If you don’t work and have no income, Biden may make your healthcare cheaper. If you do work, he seeks to take your healthcare options away.

If you want to pay higher prices for cars, give up your gas stove, be forced into an EV, subsidize wind energy then pay more for electricity on top of it, you have a clear choice. If you support those efforts, by all means, please join him on the picket line for a token photo-op (not that you will be able to get within miles for the staged charade).

But if you can think at all, you understand Biden does not support the working class, he supports the unworking class.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 10:30

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UK Quietly Passes “Online Safety Bill” Into Law

UK Quietly Passes "Online Safety Bill" Into Law

Authored by Kit Knightly via,

Buried behind the Brand-related headlines…



UK Quietly Passes "Online Safety Bill" Into Law

Authored by Kit Knightly via,

Buried behind the Brand-related headlines yesterday, the British House of Lords voted to pass the controversial “Online Safety Bill” into law. All that’s needed now is Royal assent, which Charles will obviously provide.

The bill’s (very catchy) long-form title is…

A Bill to make provision for and in connection with the regulation by OFCOM of certain internet services; for and in connection with communications offences; and for connected purposes.

…and that’s essentially it, it hands the duty of “regulating” certain online content to the UK’s Office of Communications (OfCom).

Ofcom Chief Executive Dame Melanie Dawes could barely contain her excitement in a statement to the press:

“Today is a major milestone in the mission to create a safer life online for children and adults in the UK. Everyone at Ofcom feels privileged to be entrusted with this important role, and we’re ready to start implementing these new laws.”

As always with these things, the bill’s text is a challenging and rather dull read, deliberately obscure in its language and difficult to navigate.

Of some note is the “information offenses” clause, which empowers OfCom to demand “information” from users, companies and employees, and makes it a crime to withhold it. The nature of this “information” is never specified, nor does it appear to be qualified. Meaning it could be anything, and will most likely be used to get private account information about users from social media platforms.

In one of the more worrying clauses, the Bill outlines what they call “communications offenses”. Section 10 details crimes of transmitting “Harmful, false and threatening communications”.

It should be noted that sending threats is already illegal in the UK, so the only new ground covered here is “harmful” and/or “false” information, and the fact they feel the need to differentiate between those two things should worry you.

After all, the truth can definitely be “harmful”…Especially to a power-hungry elite barely controlling an angry populace through dishonest propaganda.

Rather amusingly, the bill makes it a crime to “send a message” containing false information in clause 156…then immediately grants immunity to every newspaper, television channel and streaming service in clause 157.

Apparently it’s OK for the mainstream media to be harmful and dishonest.

But the primary purpose of the new law is a transfer of responsibility to enable and incentivize censorship.

Search engines (“regulated search services”, to quote the bill) and social media companies (“regulated user-to-user services”) will now be held accountable for how people use their platform.

For example: If I were to google “Is it safe to drink bleach?”, find some website that says yes, and then drink bleach, OfCom would not hold me responsible. They would hold Google responsible for letting me read that website. Likewise, if someone tweets @ me telling me to drink bleach, and I do so, Twitter would be held responsible for permitting that communication to take place.

This could result in hefty fines, or even potentially criminal charges, to companies and/or executives of those companies. It could even open them up to massively expensive civil suits (don’t be surprised if such a legal drama hits the headlines soon).

Unsurprisingly the mainstream coverage of the new laws barely mentions any of these concerns, instead opting to put child pornography front and centre. Because the Mrs Lovejoy argument always works.

That’s all window dressing, of course, what this is really about is “misinformation” and “hate speech”. Which is to say, fact-checking mainstream lies and calling out mainstream liars.

Section 7(135) is entirely dedicated to the creation of a new “Advisory committee on disinformation and misinformation”, which will be expected to submit regular reports to OfCom and the Secretary of State on how best to “counter misinformation on regulated services“.

This is clearly a response to Covid, or rather the failure of Covid.

Essentially, the pandemic narrative broke because the current mechanisms of censorship didn’t work well enough. In response, the government has just legalised and out-sourced their silencing of dissent.

See, the government isn’t going to actually censor anyone themselves, protecting it from pro-free speech criticism. Rather, huge financial pressure will be applied on tech giants to be “responsible” and “protect the vulnerable”. Meaning de-platforming and cancelling independent media via increasingly opaque “terms of service violations”

These companies will be cheered on by the vast crowd of jabbed-and-masked NPCs who have been so successfully brainwashed into believing the “they are a private company and can do that they want” argument.

This has been going on for years already, of course, but that was covert stuff. Now it’s legal in the UK, and is about to get a lot worse.

It won’t be just the UK either, considering the messaging on “misinformation” being seen at the UN in the last few days, we should expect something similar on a global scale.

You can read the full text of the Online Safety Bill here.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 08:10

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