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

(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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International

COVID-19: Strict week-long Lockdown in Bangladesh from April 14

(Asian News Hub) – A strict 7-day lockdown is going to be enforced in Bangladesh, from April 14, allowing only emergency services to remain in operation, it was announced on Friday.

All government and private offices, and factories will remain closed during the week-long lockdown to curb the Covid-19 spread, Public Administration Farhad Hossain said.

A gazette notification in this regard will be issued soon, he added.

IANS

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Myanmar: 114 civilians killed in deadliest day since Coup

(Asian News Hub) – At least 114 civilians were killed across Myanmar on Saturday as the military junta continued to crackdown on peaceful protests, CNN reported citing Myanmar Now.

The killings in 44 towns and cities across the country would represent the bloodiest day of protests since a military coup last month.

Among those killed is a 13-year-old who was shot in her house after the junta’s armed forces opened fire in residential areas of Meikhtila.

State television had said on Friday that protesters risked being shot ‘in the head and back.’

Despite this, demonstrators against the February 1 coup came out on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns.

On February 1, Myanmar’s military overthrew the civilian government and declared a year-long state of emergency while detaining civilian leaders including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The coup triggered mass protests which were met by the junta’s deadly violence.

The United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres and the UN office in Myanmar spoke out against the violence.

‘The continuing military crackdown, which today resulted in the highest daily death toll since demonstrations against the coup began last month, is unacceptable and demands a firm, unified and resolute international response. It is critical to find an urgent solution to this crisis,’ said a statement issued by Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general.

‘The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the killing of dozens of civilians,’ Haq said.

The UN office in Myanmar said it ‘is horrified by the needless loss of life today with reports of dozens of people shot dead by the military across the country, in the bloodiest day since the coup.’

‘The violence is completely unacceptable and must stop immediately. Those responsible must be held to account,’ the UN office added.

‘As the Special Envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener has said, ensuring peace and defending the people should be the responsibility of any military, but the Tatmadaw has turned against its own people,’ it added.

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Horrifying day of bloodshed in Myanmar

(Asian News Hub) – Security forces killed more than 90 people, including some children, across Myanmar on Saturday in one of the bloodiest days of protests since a military coup last month, news reports and witnesses said.

The lethal crackdown, which took place on Armed Forces Day, drew strong renewed criticism from Western countries. British Ambassador Dan Chugg said the security forces had “disgraced themselves” and the U.S. envoy called the violence horrifying.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, said during a parade to mark Armed Forces Day that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy.

State television had said on Friday that protesters risked being shot “in the head and back”. Despite this, demonstrators came out on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns, as they have done almost daily since the Feb. 1 coup that ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Myanmar Now news portal said 91 people were killed across the country by security forces.

At least 29 people, including a 13-year-old girl, were killed in Mandalay, and at least 24 people were killed in Yangon, Myanmar Now said. A boy as young as five was earlier reported among the dead in Mandalay but there were conflicting reports later that he may have survived.

Another 13-year-old was among the dead in the central Sagaing region.
“Today is a day of shame for the armed forces,” Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for CRPH, an anti-junta group set up by deposed lawmakers, told an online forum.

Meanwhile, one of Myanmar’s two dozen ethnic armed groups, the Karen National Union, said it had overrun an army post near the Thai border, killing 10 people – including a lieutenant colonel – and losing one of its own fighters.

A military spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment on the killings by security forces or the insurgent attack on its post.

“They are killing us like birds or chickens, even in our homes,” said Thu Ya Zaw in the central town of Myingyan, where at least two protesters were killed. “We will keep protesting regardless… We must fight until the junta falls.”

The deaths on Saturday would take the number of civilians reported killed since the coup to well over 400.

REUTERS

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