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China warns US against ‘dangerous moves’ on Taiwan

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe warned his US counterpart in a phone call on Thursday to avoid firing up bilateral tensions, a day after Washington angered Beijing by announcing it would send a senior official to visit Taiwan.

Wei told US Defence Secretary Mark Esper in a 90-minute phone call to “stop erroneous words and deeds” and “avoid taking dangerous moves that may escalate the situation,” referring directly to Taiwan and the South China Sea, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

But Esper told Wei that China was undertaking destabilising activity, according to the Pentagon, showing no sign of backing down as the US rejects China’s claims of sovereignty in both areas.

“The secretary called for greater PRC transparency on Covid, expressed concerns about PRC destabilising activity in the vicinity of Taiwan in the South China Sea and called on the PRC to honour international obligations,” said Defence Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.


French bank hostage taker surrenders, all six captives unharmed

A gunman who took six people hostage in a bank in northern France on Thursday surrendered to elite police after a six-hour operation to free his captives.

No firearms were used to detain the assailant and the hostages were all unharmed, though in shock, said Denis Jacob of the Alternative police trade union.

Bomb squad officers moved in after the 34-year-old man with a history of mental illness told officers he had explosives in a bag. He had been armed with a handgun, a national police representative told Reuters.


Sixteen port staff detained over Beirut blast

Sixteen staff members at Beirut’s port, the site of a massive explosion, have been detained over the deadly blast that devastated large parts of the city, a military prosecutor said Thursday.

Lebanese authorities had announced an investigation into Tuesday’s explosion, which they said was triggered by a fire igniting 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at Beirut’s port.

Lebanon’s foreign minister said on French radio on Thursday that an investigating committee had been given four days to determine responsibility for the blast, which killed more than 130 people and wounded at least 5,000.


Iranians, Russians receive text messages seeking US election hacking info

When Mohamad first got the text message offering him up to US$10 million (S$13 million) for information about attempts to interfere with the US election, he thought it was “some kind of cyber attack.”

But when the Teheran-based software developer logged on to Twitter he realised he was one of an unknown number of Iranian citizens who have received out-of-the-blue messages promoting the US State Department’s recently announced effort to defend the American presidential election.

Russian media reported that Russian citizens also received similar messages on Thursday.


Formula One: Vettel confirms ride in Racing Point boss’ Ferrari

Four-times Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel fuelled speculation about a move to Racing Point for 2021 on Thursday by confirming he left last weekend’s British Grand Prix in team boss Otmar Szafnauer’s car.

Formula One photographer Mark Sutton had reported seeing the German getting into the passenger seat of Szafnauer’s Ferrari after the race at Silverstone, but was unable to take pictures.

“It is correct. We were heading to the fuel station,” Vettel, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of the year, told reporters ahead of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone.


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