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US President Joe Biden Meets Japan’s Leader to Boost China-facing Alliances

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US President Joe Biden is welcoming Japans prime minister to the White House on Friday in his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader, a choice that reflects Biden’s emphasis on strengthening alliances to deal with a more assertive China and other global challenges.

Biden and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also look to counter messaging from Chinese President Xi Jinping that America and democracies in general are on the decline, after the political turmoil and international withdrawal that marked Donald Trumps presidency.

The Biden administration calls managing U.S. policies toward the Indo-Pacific, where China under Xi is flexing growing economic and military power, the primary challenge for the United States. That helped guide Biden’s decision, announced this week, to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and free the administration to focus more on East Asia.

For Biden and Suga, our approach to China and our shared coordination and cooperation on that front will be part of the discussion, press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. The two will discuss other regional security issues, including North Korea’s nuclear program.

Suga, a farmers son who rose to Japans highest political office after an early stint as a worker in a cardboard factory, succeeded boss Shinzo Abe last September, after long serving as his chief Cabinet secretary.

Suga expressed eagerness to meet with Biden early on despite global COVID-19 lockdowns. He looks to showcase security commitments with the United States, Japans only treaty ally.

Heading to Washington, Suga told reporters he aimed to build a relationship of trust with Biden.

The months-old Biden administration, for its part, looks to Suga to keep going on alliance-strengthening moves by both countries.

The two governments have been working to strengthen technology supply chains independent of China during a shortage of semiconductors that’s worrying businesses around the world. Japan is expected to announce an investment in 5G cellular networks, boosting alternatives to China’s network, as part of that supply chain cooperation.

Both countries are expected in coming days to make deeper commitments to cutting climate-wrecking fossil fuel emissions, in line with Bidens climate summit with 40 world leaders next week.

The Biden administration may also have tougher requests of Japan, including pressing Suga for a rare public statement of support from a Japanese leader for Taiwan. China, which claims the self-governed island of Taiwan as its territory, tested U.S. and Taiwanese resolve weeks into the Biden administration by sending fighter jets and bombers near Taiwan.

Japan long has moved cautiously on steps that might worsen relations with China, though Suga has been more outspoken. His administration pushed its comfort zone in a statement stressing peace and stability on the Taiwan Strait. That came during a visit last month by Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, which was the Biden administration’s highest-level face-to-face meeting at the time.

World leaders worry about Taiwan as a trigger for conflict between China and the United States.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned his Japanese counterpart in a call ahead of Suga’s visit to see to it that China-Japan relations do not get involved in the so-called confrontation between major countries, according to a Chinese government readout.

Japans backing of the U.S. presence in the Pacific is growing as the nations promote a free and open Indo-Pacific vision of the democracies to counter China.

But Japan’s economy is intertwined with China’s. That means even with security concerns on the rise, Japan would have to take a two-pronged approach to balance competition and cooperation, said Akio Takahara, a professor and China expert at the University of Tokyo.

Japan considers Chinas growing military activity as well as its broad territorial claims to be a security threat. Japan is itself locked in a dispute with China over Beijings claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea.

Elsewhere, Tokyo has watched with concern as China has built military installations on disputed territory it claims in the South China Sea.

U.S. ships regularly conduct so-called freedom of navigation operations, sailing into international waters that China claims as its own.

President Barack Obama was seen as cajoling China, in hopes of encouraging reforms. After initially praising Xi, Trump later took on China head-on and solo, with tariffs and insults, while building a golf-buddy relationship with Sugas predecessor, Abe. Biden has taken a different approach, reaching out to allies to try to form united fronts.

Suga and Biden aim to show to the world that democracies can provide to the world an example, said Kenju Murakami, Japans deputy consul-general in New York.

China also has taken note of the Biden administration’s support for reviving a loose four-country coalition with Japan, India and Australia, known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad. Biden and Suga on Friday are expected to announce steps through the Quad framework to help India produce COVID-19 vaccines.

Formed initially to coordinate relief efforts after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Quad had faded away for a time in part over concerns that its existence would provoke China, by suggesting the four countries were ganging up against it, noted Tanvi Madan, an expert on India and its relations in the Indo-Pacific at the Brookings Institution.

But lately, all the things we worried about that China would do if they were provoked, they’re already doing anyway, Madan said.

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Coronavirus News LIVE Updates: Experts Examine Effectiveness of Plasma Treatment, Advisory Likely Next Week

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Coronavirus News LIVE Updates: Kejriwal said the citizens of Delhi had played a big role in reducing the number of fresh cases by strictly following the lockdown rules.

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Delhi police interrogates Youth Congress president in court ordered probe

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The Delhi police today questioned Youth Congress president Srinivas B V over the allegations of illegal procurement and distribution of Covid-19 drugs in an ongoing investigation ordered by the Delhi High Court. The police have already questioned some AAP and BJP leaders in the case, and will question more politicians from various parties.

A team of the Delhi Police Crime Branch today reached the headquarters of the Indian Youth Congress to interrogate President Srinivas B V about the source of COVID-19 relief material his organisation is using to help the people. The police were acting on the directions of the Delhi High Court, who had asked it to conduct an enquiry into the involvement of politicians in the alleged illegal distribution of COVID-19 medicines.

While the Congress party raised an outrage over the questioning, and ‘neutral’ journalists questioned the appropriateness of investigating someone for distributing Covid-19 aid, it may be noted that BJP leaders have also been questioned and are being questioned in the same case. On May 11, Delhi BJP leader Harish Khuranna had informed that he was also questioned by Delhi Police, and he had given a statement.

“I gave them my statement and said I have never hoarded, purchased or sold any medicines. I went through official channels to help people get access to medicines. They showed me a copy of the High Court order based on which the enquiry is taking place,” Khurana said.

On the same day, the Delhi Police Crime Branch had questioned AAP MLA Dilip Pandey too in connection with alleged “illegal distribution of Covid medicines, etc”.

Delhi HC directs Police to enquire into the charge of “medical-mafia-political nexus” in the distribution of COVID-19 medicines

The inquiry by the Delhi Police is being conducted in accordance with a Delhi High Court order, which asked them to carry out an investigation into the involvement of politicians in the alleged illegal distribution of COVID-19 medicines. The Delhi Police is likely to summon BJP MP Gautam Gambhir, who is also at the forefront of helping people during the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

A petition was filed by Dr Deepak Singh, Chairman of Hruduya Foundation, in the Delhi High Court, seeking a CBI probe into an alleged “medical mafia-politician nexus” and illegal distribution of COVID medicines by politicians. The petitioner had mentioned Gambir, Srinivas, as well as BJP leaders Sujay Vikhe, Gautam Gambhir and Shirish Chaudhari, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Congress MLA Mukesh Sharma, NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Rohit Pawar, citing the instances of Remdesivir distributed by them. The petition had also asked for the detention of such persons for allegedly indulging in black-marketing of Covid-19 medicines as per the National Security Act, 1980, and to disqualify the MLAs and MPs.

The court on May 4 had turned down the plea of filing FIR and CBI probe, but had asked the Delhi Police to examine the issue. The Court had asked the police to look into the instances of politicians allegedly directly procuring Remdesivir and distributing them to Covid-19 patients, and to file FIR if any irregularities were found. The court asked the state to file a status report within a week and listed the case for hearing on May 17.

“In case alleged incidents are found to have taken place in Delhi, Delhi Police should take appropriate steps by registration of FIR,” said the division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli in an order.

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Surge Tests, Vaccine Measures as B1.617.2 Covid-19 Variant Spreads Rapidly in Parts of UK

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The case numbers related to the B1.617.2 variant of Covid-19, first identified in India, have more than doubled within a week in the UK, resulting in further surge testing and enhanced vaccine measures to be deployed in parts of the country where the strain is beginning to spread increasingly rapidly. Public Health England (PHE) said on Thursday that its latest analysis shows the number of cases of the highly transmissible variant first detected in Maharashtra has risen from 520 last week to 1,313 cases this week.

Most cases are in the northwest of England, with some in London, and additional measures are being put in place to “rapidly break chains of transmission”. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the health authorities are monitoring the situation very carefully and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary, indicating that the roadmap to lifting all lockdown measures from June 21 may have to be reassessed.

This data demonstrates why our swift and decisive measures are in place. Everyone has a part to play in controlling this variant, from participating in surge testing, to following the rules, to getting the jab, said Hancock. We are committed to working with local areas and deploying our world-leading genomic sequencing to get this variant under control. We are supporting areas where the cases of this variant are rising, he said.

The minister said it is imperative that people who live in one of the 15 areas currently covered by surge testing processes get a free PCR test and everyone who’s eligible needs to come forward and get their vaccine. PHE said that while there is no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on the severity of disease or that it evades vaccines, the “speed of growth is concerning”.

UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the authorities are looking at how to best utilise the vaccine roll-out to protect the most vulnerable in the context of the current epidemiology, including the possibility of bringing forward the second doses for the most vulnerable in some of the most affected areas. Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester, one of the hotspots of the variant, has also called for a speeding up in the age eligibility criteria for vaccines in the affected areas. The National Health Service (NHS) is now offering a jab to all over the age of 38.

Cases of this variant are rising in the community and we are continuously monitoring its spread and severity to ensure we take rapid public health action, said Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE. Testing and isolating when required not only limits spread, it helps us to better understand how the variant behaves in the community which is vital to taking effective and proportionate action moving forward “The way to limit the spread of all variants is the same. Keep your distance, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, cover your nose and mouth when inside, keep buildings well ventilated and meet people from other households outside, she said.

The variant was confirmed as a “Variant of Concern” by PHE on May 7 after a rise in cases and evidence of spread in some areas. Since then across the northwest of England, significant work is underway with local councils and partners. In Bolton, mobile testing units have been deployed and door to door PCR testing has been offered to 22,000 residents. A vaccine bus has been established in the heart of the community to increase vaccine uptake as part of a wider drive.

PCR testing, whole genome sequencing and enhanced contact tracing are being used throughout London to target the many small dispersed clusters. All positive tests in London with a high enough viral load are also being prioritised for genomic sequencing to check for variants, and surge testing can begin immediately if it is needed. Taking this community-led approach has already proved effective in reducing transmission of variants in London to date, PHE said.

To help identify variant cases, surge testing is being deployed in 15 areas across England to suppress transmission, with more than 800,000 additional PCR test kits distributed. According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), over 4,400 cases and over 14,000 close contacts have been traced and instructed to self-isolate.

Over 200 existing test sites and 130 schools have distributed test kits, with Mobile Testing Units deployed to provide PCR testing for people without symptoms. The public is also being urged to continue to take up the offer of two free rapid tests a week, to help identify asymptomatic cases. Anyone who does test positive in this way should take a follow-up PCR test, which can be sent for genome sequencing to help catch new variant cases.

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