China’s turn to blast America

China suspended military exchanges with the US and threatened sanctions against American defence companies on Saturday, just hours after Washington announced $6.4 billion in planned arms sales to Taiwan. The development has further strained the complex relations between the two powers, which are increasingly linked by security and economic issues. China’s Defence Ministry said the sales to self-governing Taiwan, which the mainland claims as its own, cause “severe harm” to overall US-China cooperation, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The Foreign Ministry threatened sanctions against US companies involved in the arms sales.

A spokeswoman for the US Embassy, Susan Stevenson, had no comment on China’s actions on Saturday. Taiwan is the most sensitive topic in US-China relations, and the sales announced on Friday could complicate cooperation between the two sides on issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to the loosening of internet controls, including a Google-China standoff over censorship. China’s Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei warned US Ambassador Jon Huntsman that the sales of Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles and other weapons to Taiwan would “cause consequences that both sides are unwilling to see,” a ministry statement said.

The US is Taiwan’s most important ally and largest arms supplier, and it is bound by law to ensure the island is able to respond to Chinese threats. China responds angrily to any proposed arms sale, however, and it also cut off military ties with the US in 2008 after the former Bush administration announced a multi-billion-dollar arms sale to Taiwan. Washington has tried to use military visits to build trust with Beijing and learn more about the arms of its massive military buildup.

Overall ties have been tense as President Barack Obama plans to meet with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, this year. It is not known whether the Taiwan arms sale will affect President Hu Jintao’s expected visit to the US this year. Experts on China warned Beijing could take further steps to punish the US to show its new found power and confidence in world affairs. The latest suspension of military ties should affect planned visits to China by US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. A visit to the US by the Chinese military’s chief of the general staff, Gen.Chen Bingde, could also be called off.

The US Congress has 30 days to comment on the newest arms sales before the plan goes forward. Lawmakers traditionally have supported such sales. Though Taiwan’s ties with China have warmed considerably since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office 20 months ago, Beijing has threatened to invade if the island ever formalizes its de facto independence. China has more than 1,000 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan.

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Osama joins climate change debate

Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, blamed the United States and developed countries for not halting climate change and said that the global economy should immediately abandon its reliance on the American dollar, according to an audio-tape released by the broadcaster Al Jazeera. “Talk about climate change is not an ideological luxury but a reality.” bin Laden was quoted as saying in a report on Al Jazeera’s English-language website. “All of the industrialized countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility for the global warming crisis.”

The authenticity of the tape could not be immediately confirmed, and Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, did not say how it obtained the message. But if substantiated, it would be bin Laden’s second public message within a week. On Sunday, Al Jazeera broadcast a one-minute tape in which bin Laden hailed the December 25 attempt to bring down a plane bound for Detroit and warned of more attacks against the United States. Bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding in Pakistan near the Afghanistan border and has issued several other taped anti-West invectives, had not put one out in four months before the one about the attempted airline bombing.

In the message broadcast, bin Laden veered away from his traditional vows to inflict death and destruction on the US, and instead discussed climate change, globalization and monetary policy in a message that he said was directed to “the whole world.” He called for a worldwide boycott of American goods and the dollar. He faulted the United States for failing to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which sought to curb global warming by restricting greenhouse gas emissions. And he offered a word of praise for Noam Chomsky, the American linguist and liberal political activist.

“Noam Chomsky was correct when he compared the US policies to those of the Mafia,” Al Jazeera quoted bin Laden as saying. “They are the true terrorists, and therefore we should refrain from dealing in the US dollar and should try to get rid of this currency as early as possible.” Bank and government officials in China, Russia and elsewhere have previously floated the idea of abandoning the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, replacing it with a basket of other currencies and commodities like gold. But bin Laden’s aim in turning away from the dollar appears to be to inflict harm on the American economy. “I am certain such actions will grave repercussions and huge impact,” he was quoted as saying.

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