By Ben Blanchard and Andrea Shalal BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. guided-missile destroyer sailed close to one of China's man-made islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, drawing an angry rebuke from Beijing, which said it had tracked and warned the ship and called in the U.S. ambassador to protest. The USS Lassen's patrol was the most significant U.S. challenge yet to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits China claims around artificial islands it has built up in the Spratly archipelago as Beijing exercises its growing maritime power. Washington's move followed months of deliberation by the administration of President Barack Obama and could ratchet up tension in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and increase strains in U.S.-China relations. A U.S. defense official said the Lassen also went within 12-mile limits of features in the disputed sea claimed by Vietnam and U.S. treaty ally, the Philippines. They said such "freedom-of-navigation" patrols were expected to become more frequent. The U.S. destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, an artificial island built up by China in the past year. A Chinese guided-missile destroyer and a naval patrol ship shadowed and gave warnings to the U.S. warship "according to law", China's Defense Ministry said. The U.S. patrol was a "coercive action that seeks to militarize the South China Sea region" and an "abuse" of freedom of navigation under international law, it added. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, testifying on Tuesday to the Senate Armed Services Committee, initially would only say the U.S. Navy had conducted operations in the South China Sea. But under questioning from lawmakers, he said the USS Lassen had passed within 12 miles of a Chinese artificial island. China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui summoned U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus, telling him that the patrol was "extremely irresponsible," the Foreign Ministry said. It earlier said the USS Lassen "illegally" entered waters near islands and reefs in the Spratlys without the Chinese government's permission. "China will resolutely respond to any country's deliberate provocations," the ministry said in a statement that gave no details on precisely where the U.S. ship sailed. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily briefing that if the United States continued to "create tensions in the region," China might conclude it had to "increase and strengthen the building up of our relevant abilities". Lu did not elaborate, except to say he hoped it did not come to that, but his comments suggested China could further boost its military presence in the South China Sea. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told a regular briefing that "Setting this aside, the U.S.-China relationship is vitally important and one we want to see continue to improve and to grow for the benefit of both our countries, not to mention the region." SAFE DISTANCE The U.S. defense official said the Lassen was followed at a safe distance by a Chinese ship and no incidents were reported during the 72-mile passage. "I would expect that this becomes a regular operation in the South China Sea," the official said. "This type of operation shouldn't be seen as provocative." The official said the Lassen had been followed for weeks by Chinese vessels before the patrol. Subi and nearby Mischief Reef were submerged at high tide before China began a dredging project to turn them into islands in 2014. Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, 12-nautical mile limits cannot be set around man-made islands built on previously submerged reefs. Pentagon officials say the United States regularly conducts freedom-of-navigation operations around the world to challenge excessive maritime claims. The U.S. Navy last went within 12 miles of Chinese-claimed territory in the Spratlys in 2012. China traveled within 12 nautical miles of the U.S. controlled Aleutian Island about six weeks ago, the defense official said. The White House says Washington has made clear to Beijing, even during last month's visit by President Xi Jinping, that the United States would fly or sail anywhere that international law allows and stressed the importance of the South China Sea for commerce. Asked on Tuesday about the patrol, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said he could not discuss details about military operations, but added: "Our freedom of navigation operations do not assert any specific U.S. rights." The patrol was carried out just weeks before a series of Asia-Pacific summits that Presidents Obama and Xi were expected to attend. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims. The Philippines, a vocal critic of China's activities in the South China Sea, welcomed the U.S. action. CHINA'S AMBITIONS A range of security experts have said Washington's freedom-of-navigation patrols would have to be regular to be effective, given Chinese ambitions to project power deep into maritime Southeast Asia and beyond. "By using a guided-missile destroyer, rather than smaller vessels ... they are sending a strong message," said Ian Storey, of Singapore's Institute of South East Asian Studies. "They have also said, significantly, that there will be more patrols – so it really now is up to China how it will respond." Some experts have said China would likely resist attempts to make such U.S. actions routine. China's navy could for example try to block or attempt to surround U.S. vessels, risking an escalation. Zhu Feng, executive director of the China Centre for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University, said he expected Beijing to limit its response as it ultimately did not want confrontation. "Both sides will be quite verbal but real actions, I hope, will show signs of exercising restraint," Zhu said. Washington worries that China has built up its outposts with the aim of extending its military reach in the South China Sea. China says they will have mainly civilian uses and undefined defense purposes. Xi surprised U.S. officials after a meeting with Obama in Washington last month by saying that China had "no intention to militarize" the islands. Even before that, however, satellite photographs had shown the construction of three military-length airstrips by China in the Spratlys, including one each on Subi and Mischief reefs. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Yeganeh Torbati and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina in Beijing; Additional reporting by Tim Kelly in Tokyo, Grego Torode in Hong Kong and Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Writing by Dean Yates and Alex Richardson; Editing by Robert Birsel, Ian Geoghegan and Grant McCool)
- Associated Press
Nico Sturm led a balanced Minnesota scoring attack with two goals, Kaapo Kahkonen was sharp in making 30 saves and the Wild earned their fourth straight win by beating the Colorado Avalanche 6-2 on Wednesday night. Mats Zuccarello, Zach Parise, Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman also scored for the Wild, who finished 4-1 on their road swing.
Australia on Thursday continued its downward trend of COVID-19 cases, stoking hopes of a faster return to normal, while Qantas Airways pushed back international travel plans by four months as it waits on the country finishing its vaccination drive. Victoria, the country's second-most populous state, recorded no cases for nearly a week, suggesting the most recent outbreak in Melbourne has been contained, prompting authorities to flag easing of more restrictions soon. "With six days of zero cases, with the number of active cases falling each day... we can be quite positive about making some announcements tomorrow," state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters when asked about lifting of curbs on gatherings.
- The Week
Golfer Tiger Woods is in serious condition following a solo car accident Tuesday morning near Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Tuesday afternoon. Woods was driving a Genesis GV80 SUV, which rolled over several times before coming to a stop. After being extracted from the vehicle, Woods was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center with multiple leg injuries, and is undergoing surgery. Contradicting earlier reports, Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby said the Jaws of Life tool was not used to remove Woods from the car. Villanueva said when deputies arrived at the scene, there was "no evidence of impairment," and weather was not a factor in the crash. Deputy Carlos Gonzales was the first officer to reach the vehicle, and he told reporters Woods was conscious and able to communicate but could not stand on his own. Gonzales said Woods was wearing a seatbelt, which "greatly increased the likelihood that it saved his life." More stories from theweek.comThe MyPillow guy might be Trump's ultimate chumpBiden nominates postal board slate that could oust Louis DeJoy after DeJoy vows to stay putIt's been 1 year since Trump infamously tweeted the 'coronavirus is very much under control' in the U.S.
Irisnaide Silva is female, Brazilian and indigenous. They kept digging even after Brazil in 2005 marked the land as indigenous territory, a measure that prohibited mining despite protests from her family and other wildcatters in her Macuxi tribe. Now, Silva has the ear of none other than Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's president.
The $6.2 billion-an-hour rise in the value of world stocks since March was dubbed the "mother of all asset bubbles" by BofA analysts last week - and all of a sudden there is a high-pitched hissing sound. Electric car doyen Tesla, which raced up 750% in last year's frenzy, skidded into the red for 2021 on Tuesday, hit by a selloff of tech stocks and a plunge in Bitcoin, in which the carmaker recently invested $1.5 billion. Both are technically in bear markets, defined as down 20% from their latest peaks, although for ultra-volatile Bitcoin which has surged well over 1,000% since March, that was admittedly only a few days ago.
- Reuters Videos
A chip shortage is biting at Japan's big carmakers. Output dropped sharply in January as semiconductors ran short. Overall production was down just over 4.5% on the year. But some makers were hit much harder. Subaru said production fell over 29%. At Honda the decline was almost 9%. In both cases the downturn was mostly due to the silicon drought. Carmakers around the world have been affected. Chips are in short supply as a result of booming sales of consumer electronics. People stuck at home have been snapping up new gadgets. U.S. sanctions on Chinese chip factories have added to the problem. The effects are not evenly felt, however. Nissan and Toyota both eked out production gains in January. Suzuki and Mazda saw production fall, but didn't blame the chip shortage.
Singapore received its first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine made by China's Sinovac Biotech on Tuesday, its health ministry said, although the shot is still awaiting approval for use in the city-state. Sinovac has started submitting initial data but the Health Sciences Authority is currently awaiting all the necessary information to carry out a thorough assessment, the ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday. Singapore is the only wealthy country considering the use of Sinovac's vaccine, which has been found to have an efficacy rate ranging from about 50% to 90% in studies.
Acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman testified on Thursday that cellphone records show former USCP chief Steven Sund requested National Guard support from the House sergeant-at-arms as early as 12:58pm on Jan. 6, but he did not receive approval until over an hour later.Why it matters: Sund and former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving clashed at a Senate hearing on Tuesday over a dispute in the timeline for when Capitol Police requested the National Guard during the Capitol insurrection.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeIrving insisted that he has no recollection of receiving the request until after 2pm. Lawmakers are looking for accountability over that hour of lost time, when pro-Trump rioters were able to breach and ransack the Capitol."I did not get a request at 1:09 that I can remember," Irving, who resigned after the insurrection, testified. "The first conversation I had with chief Sund in that timeframe was 1:28, 1:30. In that conversation, he indicated that conditions were deteriorating and he might be looking for National Guard approval."Details: Pittman testified to a House subcommittee that Sund's phone records show the former chief first reached out for National Guard support to Irving at 12:58pm.Sund then spoke to former Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger to make the same request at 1:05pm, per Pittman.Pittman says Sund repeated his request to Irving at 1:28pm, then spoke to him again at 1:34pm, 1:39pm and 1:45pm.Go deeper: Pittman testifies officers were unsure of lethal force rules on Jan. 6Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
- The Daily Beast
Reuters/Saul LoebA thief has shot Lady Gaga’s dog walker and made off with two of her French bulldogs, a representative from her team has confirmed to People magazine.The shooting took place in West Hollywood late on Wednesday night. The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to The Daily Beast that a 30-year-old male victim was taken to a local hospital. Police said his condition was unknown, but he was reportedly alert and communicative while being treated. CNN reported Thursday that the dog walker is recovering well.The singer has three beloved French bulldogs, Koji, Asia, and Gustav. She is “extremely upset” and is offering a $500,000 reward for the safe return of Koji and Gustav “no questions” asked, according to TMZ. Anyone with information is asked to email KojiandGustav@gmail.com.The shooting began right before 10 p.m. ABC7 footage from the scene shows the dog walker dressed in shorts laying on the pavement cradling Asia, the one dog that managed to escape the thief, while first responders attended to him. Police were seen swaddling Asia in a blanket before Lady Gaga’s bodyguard retrieved the pet, reported TMZ. Police are searching for at least one male suspect, who is believed to have used a semi-automatic handgun and was last seen fleeing northbound toward Hollywood Boulevard Avenue in a white vehicle. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) The case is now being handled by the department’s Robbery-Homicide Division, which often oversees high-profile investigations. They are treating the case as an “assault with a deadly weapon,” a police spokesperson confirmed.Lady Gaga is currently in Rome where she is filming Ridley Scott’s new movie Gucci. Her father Joe Germanotta described the dog walker, whom police have not formally identified, as a friend of the family."Our whole family is upset and praying Koji and Gustav are not harmed," he told Fox News. He then pleaded for help to “catch these creeps,” adding “shooting someone in order to steal dogs is wrong.”Officials said it was too early in the investigation to know if the dogs were specifically targeted in the attack. French bulldogs are very popular pets and puppies can cost as much $10,000, depending on their pedigree.Lady Gaga's team was not immediately available for further comment.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Business Insider
Texas Lt. Gov. says that people getting huge energy bills 'gambled on a very, very low rate' - but suggests they won't have to pay the full amount
Texans on variable-rate energy deals were faced with enormous bills as the wholesale price of electricity spiked 10,000% during the storms.
- Business Insider
Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump's migrant-family-separation scheme, called Biden's immigration policies 'cruel' and 'inhumane'
The family-separation policy made Miller one of the most controversial Trump officials. He even put conservatives on edge.
- The Independent
The anchor was called out “fatphobic” on social media
- Business Insider
China's massive Coast Guard and a new law expanding what it can do have worried its neighbors, maybe none of them more so than Japan.
- Business Insider
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger called out Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for hanging a sign declaring binary gender across the hall from a lawmaker with a trans daughter
Greene and Rep. Marie Newman were sparring over the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
- The Independent
Obama earlier appeared to oppose reparation during his presidential campaign
The Manhattan district attorney is now in possession of millions of pages of former President Trump's tax and financial records, CNN first reported, following a Supreme Court ruling that allowed prosecutors to enforce a subpoena after a lengthy legal battle.Why it matters: Trump fought for years to keep his tax returns out of the public eye and away from prosecutors in New York, who are examining his business in a criminal investigation that was first sparked by hush-money payments made by Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen during the 2016 election.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeThe New York Times reports that the investigation has intensified in recent months and that prosecutors are now examining potential tax and bank-related fraud.Trump has denied any wrongdoing, attacking the investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance as a political "witch hunt."Go deeper: Here’s What’s Next in the Trump Taxes Investigation (N.Y. Times)Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
- The Independent
Republican says ‘those big bills are people who gambled on a very, very low rate’ after reports people resorted to using life savings for higher fees amid the freeze
- The Independent
The Democratic operative criticised the Senator’s daughter for receiving a pay increase as a CEO
A Chinese couple paid $155,000 in fees to have 7 children in violation of the country's 2-child policy
China ended its one-child policy in 2015, but it's still struggling with declining birth rates and an aging population.
- LA Times
Tiger Woods' catastrophic crash in Los Angeles has cast a spotlight on the low-budget documentary series that featured golf's biggest star.