Denouncing the US move to close the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, China on Thursday said the bilateral relations will be harmed.
The consulate general in Houston was the first one set up by China in the United States after the establishment of diplomatic ties.
High-ranking US officials claimed Wednesday that the move was to "protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information", reports AP.
In response, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Chinese diplomatic missions in the United States, including the consulate general in Houston, have been committed to promoting friendship and cooperation between the two peoples, and have always adhered to international and local laws in performing their duties.
Over the past four decades and more, the consulate general has done a great deal in promoting mutual understanding among various communities and cooperation in various sectors between the two countries, Wang told a daily press briefing.
"The US claim of the consulate general's engagement in activities not in line with its duties is purely malicious slander," said the spokesperson.
Wang rebuked the US move as a serious breach of international law and basic norms governing international relations as well as bilateral consular agreement. It is causing serious damage to bilateral ties, Wang said, calling it "taking down the bridge of friendship between Chinese and US people."
While answering a question, the spokesperson said in July 2018 and January 2020, the US side opened China's diplomatic pouches twice without permission, which was a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and a grave infringement on China's diplomatic dignity and security interests.
After these incidents happened, the Chinese diplomatic mission in the United State immediately made solemn representations to the US side. The US side did not deny the relevant facts, but repeatedly used technical reasons as an excuse to shirk responsibility for its wrong acts, according to the spokesperson.
"What the US has done runs counter to international law and norms governing international relations and should be condemned," he said.
Wang also responded to a question on the US accusation that, with "false identities," China's consul general in Houston and two other diplomats escorted Chinese travelers aboard a charter flight at the Houston airport gate area.
Wang said the personal information of staff working at Chinese diplomatic missions is open and transparent to the U.S. side, and Chinese consular officers entered the restricted area of the airport with approval from the US side.
"Using identity documents of consular officers issued by the US State Department, they simply took care of Chinese citizens boarding temporary flights," Wang said, stressing that this is reasonable and legitimate with many precedents.
The US accusation is not in line with the facts, Wang said.
As world leaders staying away from New York and contributing set-piece speeches via video link, the General Debate of the General Assembly, traditionally the most high-profile UN event of the year, will be a slimmed-down affair this September due to Covid-19.
The new virtual format is largely due to the ongoing pandemic with many countries continuing to grapple with the health, social and economic fallout from the crisis, a UN spokesperson confirmed on Thursday, reports UN News.
While the number of new COVID-19 cases in New York has dramatically fallen, since the city was for a while the global epicentre of the pandemic in April, the US as a whole has almost four million reported cases, higher than any other country.
In a press briefing on Thursday, Reem Abaza, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said that each Member State, Observer State, and the European Union, was invited to submit a pre-recorded video, delivered by its designated high-level official, which will be played in the General Assembly Hall.
The Hall will not be empty, however, Abaza explained that the videos will be introduced by a representative of each State, who will be physically present.
The same procedure will apply for a series of special high-level sessions scheduled to take place, including a commemoration of the landmark 75th anniversary of the United Nations; a summit on biodiversity; and a meeting to commemorate, and promote, the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
Abaza told reporters that more details regarding the organisation of this year’s events will be released “in due course”.
Side-events, such as New York Climate Week, are unlikely to welcome attendees to New York venues this year, following Muhammad-Bande’s suggestion that they should be moved online.
The decision to introduce pre-recorded videos to the High-Level General Debate, which takes place at the beginning of the 75th session of the General Assembly, was made by the UN body on Wednesday, using the novel ‘silence procedure’ method.
Under this method, draft resolutions are circulated by the President of the General Assembly, which gives Member States a deadline of at least 72 hours, to raise objections. If there are no objections, the President circulates a letter, confirming that the resolution has been adopted.
UN deputy chief Amina Mohammed has said as many as 100 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020, the first rise in global poverty since 1998.
“We need all hands on deck if we are to rebuild our economies sustainably and inclusively,” she said in a video message on Wednesday.
Noting that the report calls for better international tax cooperation and more equitable access to digital technologies, she said the sustainable management of natural resources, and value-added approaches to trading goods, will also be critical.
The 2030 Agenda remains the agreed framework for recovering in ways that accelerate progress on climate change, poverty and gender inequality, and address the fragilities exposed or exacerbated by the pandemic. “We must all do more,” she said.
With multilateral cooperation under strain, senior UN officials, Nobel laureates and eminent academic experts, gathered virtually on Wednesday for the launch of a new report recommending “an adjusted approach” to economic development, and a policy dialogue exploring how countries can recover from COVID-19, in ways that lead to real structural transformation.
“Parallel threats linked to health, economic and social crises have crippled countries and left us at a standstill”, said Liu Zhenmin, Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), as he presented a new report by the High-level Advisory Board on Economic and Social Affairs.
Titled 'Recover Better: Economic and Social Challenges and Opportunities', the report analyses economic trends critical to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and recovery from COVID-19.
Among its recommendations is a greater focus on the environment, he said, as well as promotion of research and development, investment in infrastructure and education, and improvement in economic equality.
“Overcoming the crisis and getting back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals will require a strengthened multilateralism,” he said.
COVID-19 has laid bare how much leadership, foresight and collaboration among all governments and stakeholders, matter.
During two policy dialogues, 12 experts wrestled with whether the world is currently in a recession and if so, what it will take to recover in ways that can thoroughly reform underlying vulnerabilities, according to UN News.
“There is no trade-off between economic efficiency and equality,” said Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), who contributed a chapter on the topic.
45 million at risk
During a panel on the theme, “Ensuring a sustainable recovery through more inclusive and strengthened multilateralism”, she underscored the urgent need for structural change.
Between 2000 and 2010, 60 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean moved out of poverty. Now, 45 million risk being pulled back in.
“The market is not going to equalize society. We need a new social and political compact altogether,” she said, pointing out that Costa Rica, Uruguay and Cuba – societies that have high trust in government - have fared better during the pandemic than others.
She also called for a progressive tax system, as countries in the region have a 23 percent tax burden, lower than those in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as more regional integration. “The post-pandemic world is going to be a world of regions, a world of blocs.”
Ricardo Lagos, former President of Chile, suggested the creation of an internationally binding agreement on pandemics, forged under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Europe’s Social Contract
Along similar lines, Marcel Fratzscher of research institute DIW Berlin, said that on 21 July, European countries agreed to establish a €750 billion ($850 billion) recovery fund, transferring resources from stronger to weaker countries with the goal of rebuilding Europe.
“There is an institutional framework being put into place that could ultimately lead to fiscal union help strengthen capital market union,” he said.
Others drew attention to the significant drop in global trade, which Merit Janow, Dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said was occurring in the context of growing nationalism, geopolitical tensions and strain around multilateral institutions -- all underscore the vulnerability of global supply chains.
The first priority should be to keep the global trading system open, she said. Practical, problem-solving approaches will be needed, which countries might undertake regionally or through “coalitions of the willing.”
She pointed out that when the World Trade Organization appellate body disbanded, a cluster of countries agreed on arbitration for some purposes.
Africa Needs 4 Million Teachers
In a second discussion on “Assessing the state of the global economy and recovery pathways”, Cristina Duarte, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Africa, who is the former Minister of Finance, Planning and Public Administration of Cabo Verde, said that for Africa, recovering better requires a look at why, after 25 years of uninterrupted growth, systems are still lacking.
She said Africa must mobilise itself - beyond emergency solutions - to understand the nature and quality of economic growth. The continent was not socially inclusive before the pandemic hit, lacking jobs for 60 per cent of its young people.
She said Africa needs 4 million more teachers and a further 1 to 2 million health professionals – and importantly – to break away from ideas that equate poverty management with development management. Income redistribution, rather than economic growth, must be at the centre of all recovery strategies.
Heizo Takenaka of Toyo University said Japan’s experience with COVID-19 revealed the need to carefully consider the governance systems in place during an emergency. “We should be very careful about the possibility of asset inflation from here on, considering that monetary authorities are applying a huge amount of money in many countries.”
Broadly speaking, Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz said that at a moment when more global cooperation is badly needed, strong forces are fraying the global economy.
While the “Trump-kind of protectionism” will go by the wayside, he argued, the deeper problem is that supply chains have not been resilient and instead made countries more vulnerable.
He described the disappearance of optimism prevailing after the US-Soviet Cold War era, that countries were converging around liberal democratic models and free-market economies.
Under the turmoil of COVID-19, authoritarianism is now flourishing in some parts of the world, which has led to a split among nations.
“Post-COVID-19, the world is going to have a very different architecture, no matter who is in the White House, no matter what is going on around the world,” he explained.
Worse than the Great Depression?
He said the global economic downturn will be the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s - and in many dimensions, worse than that seismic failure of the global system. “We should use the massive amount of government intervention in countries…to create a new world that is more in accordance with our views of what our societies should be.”
Countries that have done well, he said, have high trust in government, high social solidarity, an understanding of the externalities associated with disease spread, and trust in science.
“Forty years of denigrating the role of the State means that in some countries, the State was not able to perform a role that was essential,” he added.
Many countries have recently reported successful development in their Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials, bringing a hope to the world during the precarious Coronavirus situation.
Besides, the health experts called for an objective, rational and scientific attitude towards vaccine candidates, said a report of Xinhua on Wednesday.
According to data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday, it is said that at least 24 COVID-19 candidate vaccines are in clinical evaluation, and another 142 in preclinical evaluation.
On Monday alone, four countries reported their new research results of COVID-19 vaccines.
Chinese experts said in a new study published in medical journal The Lancet that a phase 2 trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate has found that the vaccine is safe and induces an immune response.
"The phase 2 trial adds further evidence on safety and immunogenicity in a large population than the phase 1 trial. This is an important step in evaluating this early-stage experimental vaccine and phase 3 trials are now underway," said Professor Fengcai Zhu from Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China.
A report published also in The Lancet reveals the results of the phase 1/2 trial of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.
It indicates no early safety concerns and produces strong immune response.
According to the University of Oxford, the trial involves more than 1,000 healthy adult volunteers. The vaccine provoked a T cell response (white blood cells that can attack cells infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus) within 14 days of vaccination, and an antibody response within 28 days.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that together with the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, it has successfully completed clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine with the participation of volunteers.
"Without exception, all volunteers, having received immunity from the coronavirus, felt fine," First Deputy Defense Minister of the Russian Federation Ruslan Khadzhismelovich Tsaikov told Moscow's Argumenty i Fakty newspaper.
German biotech company BioNTech and U.S. pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer announced that data from their experimental COVID-19 vaccine showed that it was safe, and induced an immune response and high-level T-cell responses against the novel coronavirus in patients.
Earlier this month, research institutes in other countries also reported progress in their COVID-19 vaccine trials.
In a study published July 14 in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reported that the COVID-19 vaccine mRNA-1273, co-developed by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and U.S. biotech firm Moderna Therapeutics, induced immune responses and no serious side effects in volunteers in the second clinical trial.
Moreover, the University of Queensland in Australia, Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, among other institutes, also reported positive results in their COVID-19 vaccine research.
Despite the good news on COVID-19 candidate vaccines, experts warned of uncertainties of vaccine development and clinical trials, as well as multiple risks and challenges including virus mutation, while appealing for an objective, rational and scientific attitude towards vaccine research.
Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said on July 3 that there is no accurate timetable for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
While a vaccine candidate might show its effectiveness by year's end, the question is how soon it could be mass produced, he added.
Saudi Arabia's Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said recently that researchers should avoid being over-optimistic about the significant progress of some candidate vaccines in clinical trials, and wait for further trial results.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier said that the effectiveness of developing vaccines cannot be guaranteed.
Some studies showed that the level of anti-bodies will decline after COVID-19 patients recover. Joint efforts of scientific research teams are needed to tackle issues including how COVID-19 vaccines provide sufficient long-term immunity and how to deal with possible virus variation.
The WHO urged that before a COVID-19 vaccine is officially available, all countries should consistently take full-flung prevention and control measures.
At least nine people were killed and six others injured after a military helicopter crashed, Colombia's army said Tuesday.
The wreckage of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter carrying 17 people was found along the Inirida River in southeast Colombia.
The injured have been taken to a nearby hospital, the army said in a statement said, while a special rescue team "continues the search" for the missing victims.
"Unfortunately, we have found the bodies of nine of our personnel," a military spokesperson tweeted.
"At the site where the helicopter plummeted, personnel in the area reported that 17 members of the national army were traveling aboard the aircraft," the army said earlier in a defense ministry statement.
According to the General Command of Colombia's Military Forces, the helicopter had been involved in a military operation against an organised armed group in the department of Guaviare before it crashed early Monday morning.
The army's aviation division has sent specialists to the site to determine the cause of the accident.