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Presidents Biden and Xi hold first phone call amid tense U.S.-China relations

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(Asian News Hub) – U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held their first telephone call as leaders, with Biden saying a free and open Indo-Pacific was a priority and Xi warning confrontation would be a ‘disaster’ for both nations.Biden also underscored his “fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair practices, its crackdown in Hong Kong, reported human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan”, the White House said in a statement.

Xi told Biden that confrontation would be a “disaster” and the two sides should re-establish the means to avoid misjudgments, according to the Chinese foreign ministry’s account of the call, which took place on Thursday morning in Beijing time but Wednesday evening in the United States.

The Chinese leader maintained a hardline tone regarding Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, which Xi told Biden were matters of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” that he hopes the United States will approach cautiously.

Taiwan’s government, which has complained of China’s repeated military drills near the Chinese-claimed and democratic island, thanked Biden for expressing his concern.

The telephone call was the first call between Xi and a U.S. president since the Chinese leader spoke with former President Donald Trump in March last year. Since then, relations between the two countries have plunged to their worst level in decades, with Trump blaming China for the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the Trump administration, the United States launched a series of actions against China, including a trade war, sanctions against Chinese officials and firms perceived to be security threats and challenging Beijing’s South China Sea territorial claims.

Xi congratulated Biden on his election in a message in November, even though Biden had called him a “thug” during the campaign and vowed to lead an international effort to “pressure, isolate and punish China.”

Chinese officials have expressed cautious optimism that bilateral relations will improve under Biden and urged Washington to meet Beijing halfway.

The U.S. and Chinese read outs of the call mentioned areas for potential cooperation, with both honing in on climate change and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You have said that America can be defined in one word: Possibilities. We hope the possibilities will now point toward an improvement of China-U.S. relations,” Xi told Biden, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

Reuters

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Afghanistan: 37 killed, over 70 injured as blast hits Shia mosque in Kandahar

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(Asian News Hub) – Suicide bombers assaulted a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan that was packed with worshippers attending weekly Friday prayers, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 70, Associated Press reported quoting hospital official and an eyewitness.

The attack on the Imam Barga mosque came a week after a bombing claimed by a local Islamic State affiliate killed 46 people at a Shiite mosque in northern Afghanistan.

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Murtaza, an eye-witness who like many Afghans goes by one name, said four suicide bombers attacked the mosque. Two detonated their explosives at a security gate, allowing the other two to run inside and strike the congregation of worshippers.

Speaking to The Associated Press by phone, he said Friday prayers are typically attended by around 500 people.

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At least 20 killed, over 300 injured in an earthquake in Pakistan

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(Asian News Hub) – At least 20 people were killed and over 300 others injured after a powerful 5.9 earthquake struck Pakistan’s Balochistan province early on Thursday, October 7, 2021, according to PTI quoting media reports.

Disaster management officials said the death toll may increase, Geo News reported.

According to the seismological centre, the epicentre was located near Harnai at a depth of 15 km.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said many of the dead were women and children.

The quake affected Quetta, Sibi, Harnai, Pishin, Qila Saifullah, Chaman, Ziarat and Zhob in Balochistan.

Images on social media showed people in the city of Quetta out on the streets in the aftermath of the quake, Dawn newspaper reported.

Aftershocks are still being felt in different areas. The earliest tremors were felt at 3:20 am after which panicked citizens rushed out of their houses reciting verses from the holy Quran. Relief and rescue activities are underway, with an emergency declared in all hospitals.

According to Deputy Commissioner of Harnai Sohail Anwar Hashmi, several people have been rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

He said that several buildings in Harnai have been damaged. Many people were left buried under the rubble.

The power supply to the area has been suspended, he said.

According to the rescue sources, more than 70 houses were reported damaged in Harnai.

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World surpasses 5M COVID-19 deaths

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(Asian News Hub) – The coronavirus death toll around the world surpassed 5 million on Friday, according to Reuters’s tally.

Around the world, an average of 8,000 deaths a day were reported, according to the outlet. However, it noted that the global death rate has slowed in recent weeks.

Reuters reported that it took over a year to accumulate 2.5 million deaths, but it took under eight months to accumulate the second 2.5 million deaths.

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