Top News Stories for Today – January 24, 2017
China hits back US over South China Sea claims
China has asserted its “indisputable sovereignty” over parts of the South China Sea after the Trump administration vowed to prevent China from taking territory in the region. The Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing would “remain firm to defend its rights in the region”. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday the US would “make sure we protect our interests there”.
Barack Obama’s administration refused to take sides in the dispute. It did, however, send B-52 bombers and a naval destroyer last year, and the then US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out over what he called “an increase of militarisation from one kind or another” in the region. Several nations claim territory in the resource-rich South China Sea, which is also an important shipping route. BBC
Trump repeats false claim on popular vote
President Trump spent the first 10 minutes of his first official meeting with congressional leaders talking about the “huge crowd” at his inauguration, rehashing the presidential campaign, and repeating a claim that has been debunked multiple times — that he lost the popular vote by a wide margin because of millions of illegal votes cast against him, several people who attended the closed-door meeting said Monday night.
As they dined on meatballs and shrimp cocktail in the White House State Dining Room, Trump falsely asserted that between 3 million and 5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote, participants told The New York Times and The Washington Post. Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes, but won 304 electoral votes, and thus the presidency. The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Week
UK Court rules on Brexit
On Tuesday, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled 8-3 that Prime Minister Theresa May cannot start the process of pulling the U.K. out of the European Union without an act of Parliament, putting a speed bump in May’s plans to invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty by March. The Supreme Court, the highest court in England and Wales, agreed with a lower court that May can’t use executive powers called the royal prerogative to trigger Brexit because it would affect the rights of Britons conferred by Parliament in 1972 in order to join the European Union.
It is not yet clear what kind of legislation May’s government will introduce to get Parliament’s assent, or whether Brexit skeptics will be able to wrest concessions in the process, but May is expected to gain approval before too long. The Supreme Court unanimously decided that May does not need to consult regional governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. BBC News, The Week
US automakers to meet with Trump
President Donald Trump meets Tuesday with the CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler in the Oval Office. “I want new plants to be built here for cars sold here!” Trump tweeted Tuesday. Trump made a point on the campaign trail of slamming American automakers for importing cars from Mexico and vowed a border tax to prevent companies from moving their assembly plants south.
“I need clarity. I think we all need clarity. And we’re not the only ones that need clarity,” Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this month. The American automakers will likely try to make their case for why it would be a strain to produce all of their cars within the US., with some experts estimating Trump’s proposed tariffs and taxes would drive up car prices and leave consumers with fewer options. NBC News, Donald J. Trump, The Week
Asia preparing new trade pacts after US quits TPP
Governments and business in Asia are preparing to place greater focus on regional trade and economic prospects, following the US. decision to withdraw from the 12 nation Trans Pacific Partnership agreement or TPP. Analysts say alternative multilateral trade pacts including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes China, may fill the ‘vacuum’ left by the absence of TPP.
The decision, which President Donald Trump called a “great thing for the American worker” – had been anticipated by the region as it had been a key pledge by Trump during his election campaign last year. The trade deal, covering nearly 40 percent of the global economy and about a third of global trade, was initiated by countries within Asia before the US. joined in the talks that began in 2009.
The TPP was a hallmark of former President Barack Obama’s tenure as part of a policy pledge to pivot the US. towards Asia to counter China’s growing regional influence. VOA
Russia, Turkey and Iran agree to monitor Syria cease-fire
Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed Tuesday to set up a mechanism to observe a cease-fire in Syria, as they ended two days of peace talks in Astana with officials from the Syrian government and rebels. The three countries reiterated in their joint statement that the nearly six-year war in Syria has no military solution, and that negotiations under guidelines set up in a United Nations resolution are the only way to achieve peace. They also reiterated their joint opposition to militant groups Islamic State and the Nusra Front.
Another round of peace talks is due to be held on February 8 in Geneva, led by U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura. The government and rebel delegations did not take part in any direct negotiations during this set of meetings held in Astana, Kazakhstan, communicating instead through mediators. The focus was on cementing a nationwide cease-fire that Russia, Turkey and Iran brokered in December. That agreement has largely held. VOA
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