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China’s coronavirus cover-up and the implications for Israel



China’s coronavirus cover-up and the implications for Israel

Growing calls for an investigation into China’s handling and possible cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak have observers debating the potential implications for both Israeli and U.S. policy on China.

In Israel, there was concern over Chinese penetration of key areas of the economy even before the pandemic. China is Israel’s second-largest trading partner after the United States, with $11.5 billion in annual trade, according to data gathered by Bloomberg. However, in the aftermath of the global coronavirus pandemic the United States is likely to increase its pressure on Israel in this regard, some experts believe.

Carice Witte, the founder and executive director of the Sino-Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership (SIGNAL), told JNS, “Unless at the end of this Israel has a comprehensive plan ready for its relations with China that addresses U.S. concerns regarding Israel-China cooperation, it is highly likely that due to the fallout of the virus, the U.S. will ask Israel to limit its dealings with China.”

The only way Israel can prevent this, said Witte, is to take the initiative.

“If Washington sees that Jerusalem has taken sufficient precautions not only regarding Israel’s national security but also what the U.S. considers it own security issues, it may see no need to pressure Israel regarding a range of fields where we are working with China, from technology to infrastructure to academic research,” she said.

In 2015, Israel extended a 25-year offer to the state-controlled Shanghai International Port Group to operate its Haifa port, and Chinese investment in Israeli hi-tech has also spiked in recent years. Senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton, have warned that the United States will limit intelligence sharing if Israel does not restrict Chinese investment in the country. There was even a report that the U.S. Navy would stop its longtime operations in the Haifa port if the Chinese company took over its operation.

However, according to Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, despite the fact that China is an authoritarian state with no scruples or moral constraints and may well have covered up the initial outbreak, delaying the response of other countries, including Israel, to the crisis, “Israel has to be very careful in its relations with Beijing.”

This, he said, is because the Chinese can decide whether or not to “allow North Korea to transfer sensitive technology to Israel’s adversaries,” though he noted that China tries not to leave fingerprints as to its involvement in such transfers.

Also read:  Trump claims information indicates Wuhan lab behind outbreak

In addition, he said, claims that China is “taking over” the Haifa port are overblown.

“The Chinese did not take over the Haifa port. They are building an extension of it,” he said, though he added that “nevertheless, this project was a result of careless processes within Israel’s bureaucracy.”

Great care must be taken when dealing with China, for several reasons, said Inbar

“We should be careful in allowing Chinese firms linked to the government to control some of our infrastructure projects. Only recently [did] Israel establish an inter-ministerial committee to deal with foreign investment in sensitive parts of our economy.”

Furthermore, said Inbar, “dealings with Chinese entities might have problematic political consequences.”

There is increasing confidence that the coronavirus pandemic began in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, multiple sources who have been briefed on the details told Fox News. The sources propose that the initial transmission of the naturally occurring virus being studied in Wuhan was bat-to-human, and that “patient zero” worked at the lab. Some in the U.S. administration and the epidemiological community are more skeptical of this claim, but all agree on the extensive cover-up the Chinese government carried out after the outbreak was first detected, the report said.

However, Asia Times columnist David P. Goldman told JNS that While it is entirely possible that the Chinese authorities hid the true casualty rate in Wuhan, if so it was likely done to help contain the spread of the virus and ease anger against the government’s handling of the crisis. In addition, he said, even if an initial coverup of the outbreak did delay other countries’ response, “somehow the other Asian countries got on top of this much quicker than the West.”

‘Implications for the U.S. and Israel’

Nevertheless, there is increasingly harsh rhetoric coming out of the United States over China’s handling of the initial outbreak, as well as calls to punish China in some way, or even to decouple the U.S. economy from the growing world power.

China hawks in Congress are calling for China to be held accountable, with one of the latest moves in this regard being Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) introducing legislation to allow Americans to sue China in federal court over the death and economic damage caused by the virus. “By silencing doctors and journalists who tried to warn the world about the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party allowed the virus to spread quickly around the globe,” Cotton said in a statement.

In a recent column, Goldman argued that it is unrealistic to decouple the country from the Chinese economy, since doing so would undermine America’s interests. But as the evidence mounts of a Chinese coverup, the push to retaliate against China in some manner is gathering momentum.

The question is what form that retaliation will take, and whether the post-coronavirus environment will convince—or force—Israel’s leaders to scale back ties with China as tensions with the United States escalate.




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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’



The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin



Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel



A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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