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US Urges Australia To Step Up Naval Exercises In South China Sea

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look: 28 July 2020

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Australian and US ships conduct manoeuvres in the South China Sea, in an image released in April 2020. Photograph: Australian Department of Defence/Reuters

Australia has had recent run-ins with China over the waterway.

Security // BLUF: The United States has called on Australia to increase its naval exercises in the disputed South China Sea.

This follows Australia's recent unplanned encounter with the Chinese Navy, along with Australia declaring to the UN that “there is no legal basis” for China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Australia's Foreign and Defence ministers are due to meet with with US counterparts in Washington DC on Tuesday to discuss issues including the expanding naval operations in the disputed waterway.

(See Point 7 Below for Further Information)

The Daily Quick-Look for 28 July 2020

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look is your at-a-glance look at several key events and situations around the world over the last 24 hours. Each headline contains the link to its source report.

BLUF = Bottom Line Up Front.

FYSA = For Your Situational Awareness.

1. UNITED STATES, CHINA - Political: China seizes U.S. consulate in Chengdu, retaliating for Houston

FYSA: China took over the premises of the U.S. consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Monday, after ordering the facility to be vacated in retaliation for China’s ouster last week from its consulate in Houston, Texas. The seizure capped a dramatic escalation in tensions between the world’s two biggest economies that began when employees at China’s Houston consulate were seen burning documents in a courtyard last Tuesday, hours before Beijing announced that it had been ordered to leave the facility. The U.S. consulate in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, was closed as of 10 a.m (0200) on Monday, and Chinese authorities had entered the building from the front door, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. On Friday, Beijing announced that it had asked the United States to close its Chengdu post, and gave the Americans 72 hours to vacate, the same amount of time China was given to leave its Houston mission, which was shut on Friday. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

2. BELGIUM - Security (Health): What does Belgium’s reduced social bubble mean?

FYSA: From Wednesday 29 July, people in Belgium will have to reduce their social contacts to 5 people per household, but trips can still take place with a maximum of 10 people. Despite Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès’ insistence that the measure was “pretty clear and simple,” her cabinet had to clarify the measure after the press conference. “You choose 5 fixed contacts with your family. That’s your bubble, which you get to meet. If you want to meet up with that bubble, for example at a restaurant or for a trip, you may not exceed the limit of 10 people,” her cabinet clarified. Children under 12 years old, however, are not included in this measure. (Brussels Times. See link in heading for further reading)

3. BULGARIA - Security (Health)/Economic: Bulgaria eases travel bans for tourists from Ukraine, Balkans

FYSA: Bulgaria will allow tourists from Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, Moldova, Israel and Kuwait to visit its resorts as of July 28 if they have negative COVID-19 tests, the health ministry said. The negative tests have to be done 72 hours prior to arrival. Tourists from Ukraine will be allowed on the same grounds as of July 30, the ministry said in a statement. Bulgaria is eager to help its struggling Black Sea summer resorts, where foreign visits have plunged due to travel bans over the coronavirus pandemic. (The Star. See link in heading for further reading)

4. ZIMBABWE - Political: Zimbabwe calls U.S. ambassador 'thug' as anti-government protests loom

FYSA: Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government. Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government. Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

5. LEBANON - Security (Health): Lebanon reimposes COVID-19 restrictions as infections spike

FYSA: Lebanon reimposed severe COVID-19 restrictions on Monday for the next two weeks, shutting places of worship, cinemas, bars, nightclubs, sports events and popular markets, after a sharp rise in infections. Shops, private companies, banks and educational institutions would be permitted to open, but only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with a near total lockdown in place Thursday through Monday until Aug 10. This week’s lockdown coincides with the Eid al-Adha holiday when Muslims normally hold large gatherings. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

6. HONG KONG - Security (Health): Hong Kong enacts 2-person limit on group gatherings

FYSA: Hong Kong is to enact a 2-person limit on group gatherings from Wednesday in response to the escalating Covid-19 outbreak. Dining-in at restaurants will also be banned and mask-wearing will be compulsory in outdoor public places, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung has said. The measures will expire on August 4. At a press briefing on Monday, Cheung said there have been 1,164 cases in the past fortnight and only 113 were imported. He said that dining-in at all eateries will be banned at all times, and venues will have to conduct temperature checks and provide alcohol rub whilst food court seating must be cordoned off. Bars will remain closed. (HKFP. See link in heading for further reading)

7. AUSTRALIA - Security: US presses Australia to step up naval exercises in South China Sea

FYSA: The Trump administration is pressing Australia to increase freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea but Labor has urged the Coalition to use coming ministerial talks to query what the US is doing to ease tensions with China. Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, and defence minister, Linda Reynolds, are set to meet their US counterparts in Washington DC on Tuesday to discuss extending military cooperation in the South China Sea as well as countering online disinformation. The meeting occurs against a backdrop of increased tensions, after Australian war ships had an unplanned encounter with China’s navy and Australia declared in a submission to the UN “there is no legal basis” to China’s territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea. (The Guardian. See link in heading for further reading)

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