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US To Operate 'Undaunted, Unafraid' In Taiwan Strait, Says Kamala Harris

TOKYO, Sept 28: Washington will operate "undaunted and unafraid" throughout Asia, including the Taiwan Strait, US Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday as she addressed American troops in Japan.

Speaking after attending Tuesday's funeral for assassinated former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe, Kamala Harris accused China of "disturbing behaviour" in the East China Sea and South China Sea and "provocations across the Taiwan Strait".

"The United States believes that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is an essential feature of a free and open Indo-Pacific," she said, using Washington's term for the Asia-Pacific region.

"We will continue to fly, sail and operate, undaunted and unafraid, wherever and whenever international law allows," she added.

Beijing claims both democratic Taiwan and the narrow body of water separating the island from mainland China -- one of the world's busiest shipping channels.

The United States has long used "freedom of navigation" passages through the Taiwan Strait to push back against Chinese claims, and Western allies have increasingly joined these operations.

Harris restated Washington's longstanding opposition to any unilateral attempt by Beijing to take control of Taiwan and pledged ongoing US support for the island's self-defence.

In recent months, US President Joe Biden has said American troops would come to Taiwan's aid in the event of a Chinese invasion, despite Washington's official policy of "strategic ambiguity" on the matter.

The White House has said there is no change to that policy and Harris did not address Biden's comments in her remarks to troops on the USS Howard at the Yokosuka Naval Base outside Tokyo.

She also slammed Russia for "attempting to annex the territory of another sovereign nation" in a reference to votes organised by Moscow in occupied areas of Ukraine.

And she accused North Korea of threatening regional stability with fresh missile launches.

Washington "does not seek conflict with China", Harris said, but "we anticipate continued aggressive behaviour from Beijing as it attempts to unilaterally undermine the status quo".

Harris leaves Japan later Wednesday for South Korea, where she will visit the Demilitarized Zone.

US to solve visa backlog for Indians in the next few months: Blinken assures Jaishankar

WASHINGTON, Sept 28: The US has a plan to solve the visa backlog for Indians in the next few months, as per US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The comments were made during a meeting in Washington with S Jaishankar. India’s Minister of External Affairs raised issues with obtaining visas for Indians to live and work in the United States.

For Indians, the US has a non-immigrant visa waiting period for more than two years. The waiting period in Delhi is 444 calendar days for student/exchange visitor visas, 758 calendar days for visitor visas and 354 calendar days for all other non-immigrant visas.

Jaishankar said he was confident that Blinken and his team would look at some of these problems “seriously and positively". Blinken attributed the backlog to the COVID-19 epidemic.

"We had constraints from COVID about the number of people we could have in our embassies at any one time etc. We are now building back very determined really from that surging resources. We have a plan when it comes to India to address the backlog of visas that have built up. I think you'll see that play out in the coming months," Blinken said in a press briefing.

During COVID, the US' capacity to provide visas significantly decreased. And, it doesn't want to add to the difficulty of it in any way. Instead, it wants to make it easier, Blinken said.

“Bear with us. This will play out over the next few months but we're very focused on it," he added.

The relationship between India and the United States is one of the “most consequential"in the world, Blinken said during the joint press conference. According to the US Secretary of State, the two countries have improved their bilateral relationship over the past few years thanks to groups like QUAD, the G20, and UN-affiliated international organisations.

India's UNSC presidency in December and its G20 presidency in 2023 will allow the US to promote more international collaboration and joint action. Blinken said.

Biden supports Germany, Japan, India as permanent members of reformed UNSC: White House official

NEW YORK, Sept 22: “We have historically and continue to stand behind the idea that Germany, Japan and India should be permanent members of the Security Council,” the U. S. official said

U. S. President Joe Biden supports Germany, Japan and India as permanent members of a reformed United Nations Security Council, a senior official of his administration has said.

At the same time, a lot of work needs to be done in this matter, the official told reports on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

"We have historically and continue to stand behind the idea that Germany, Japan and India should be permanent members of the Security Council," the official said in response to a question.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Joe Biden in his address at the U. N. General Assembly reiterated his commitment to reforming the U. N. Security Council.

Biden said he believes the time has come for the institution to become more inclusive so that it can better respond to the needs of today's world.

Members of the U. N. Security Council, including the United States, should consistently uphold and defend the United Nations Charter and refrain from the use of veto, except in rare and extraordinary situations, to ensure that the Council remains credible and effective, he said.

"That is also why the United States supports increasing the number of both permanent and non-permanent representatives of the Council. This includes permanent seats for those nations we've long supported," Mr. Biden said.

US Federal Reserve Raises Key Interest Rate Amid Recession Fear

WASHINGTON, Sept 21: The Federal Reserve raised the key US interest rate again Wednesday and said more hikes are coming as it battles soaring prices -- an aggressive stance that has raised fears of a recession.

It was the third consecutive increase of 0.75 percentage point by the Fed's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), continuing the forceful action to tamp down inflation that has surged to the highest in 40 years.

The increase takes the policy rate to 3.0-3.25 percent, and the FOMC said it "anticipates that ongoing increases... will be appropriate."

Soaring prices are putting the squeeze on American families and businesses and have become a political liability for President Joe Biden, as he faces midterm congressional elections in early November.

But a contraction of the world's largest economy would be a more damaging blow to Biden, to the Fed's credibility and the world at large.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has made it clear that officials will continue to act aggressively to cool the economy and avoid a repeat of the 1970s and early 1980s, the last time US inflation got out of control.

It took tough action -- and a recession -- to finally bring prices down in the 1980s, and the Fed is unwilling to give up its hard-won, inflation-fighting credibility.

The Fed's quarterly forecasts released with the rate decision Wednesday show FOMC members expect a sharp slowdown with US GDP growth of just 0.2 percent this year, but a return to expansion in 2023, with annual growth of 1.2 percent.

Powell's press conference after the meeting will be closely scrutinized for clues on how much more he thinks the Fed will have to do before it declares victory in the inflation fight.

FOMC members see further rate hikes this year and next, with no cuts until 2024.

US Judge Orders Review Of Material Seized At Trump's Home

WASHINGTON, Sept 5: A US judge on Monday granted Donald Trump's request for the appointment of a "special master" to independently review material seized in an FBI raid on his Florida home, dealing a blow to prosecutors.

Prosecutors had opposed Trump's request, arguing that the appointment of a special master to screen for material covered by attorney-client privilege could harm national security, and was also unnecessary as a government team had already completed a screening.

"A special master shall be appointed to review the seized property, manage assertions of privilege and make recommendations thereon, and evaluate claims for return of property," Judge Aileen Cannon wrote in her order, which was seen as a boost for Trump in his legal battle.

Cannon's order made an exception for review and use of the materials for "intelligence classification and national security assessments."

The judge gave both sides until Friday to come up with a list of candidates for the role of special master.

The Justice Department has said in court filings that highly classified government documents, including some marked "Top Secret," were discovered in Trump's personal office during the raid.

A detailed list of what was seized also showed Trump held on to more than 11,000 unclassified government records that he claims are his to keep -- but legally are owned by the National Archives.

"The Government is temporarily enjoined from further review and use of any of the materials seized from Plaintiff's residence on August 8, 2022, for criminal investigative purposes pending resolution of the special master's review process as determined by this Court," the order said.





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