The three countries US President George W. Bush called an "axis of evil" in his first term are at the top of his foreign policy to-do list in the second, along with a revitalized Middle East peace process and continued efforts to repair European alliances frayed by the US-led invasion of Iraq. \nWar and reconstruction in Iraq are likely to continue to command more attention than any other international issues, at least for the first couple of years of Bush's new four-year term. \n"The first priority has got to be getting Iraq right," said Max Boot, a conservative expert on national security at the Council on Foreign Relations. \nBut in the short run, the Bush administration also must juggle a complicated response to the devastation from tsunami across South Asia amid some complaints that the rich US is not doing enough. \nThe massive relief effort -- for which the US increased its financial aid commitment Friday to US$350 million -- is drawing attention away from preparations for elections scheduled for Jan. 30 in Iraq, but the distraction will probably be brief. \nBush pledged to give it plenty of attention, saying in his weekly radio address on Saturday that "we join the world in feeling enormous sadness over a great human tragedy." \nOn Iraq, the administration will get a real and perceived boost in credibility if elections scheduled there for the end of this month come off well, Boot and others said. Another round of elections is planned for later this year. \nThe alternative -- protracted turmoil and violence that the US cannot control -- would complicate US foreign policy far beyond Iraq. \n"The odds are in our favor, but defeat is not out of the question," Boot said. "I think it's 60-40 in our direction." \nThe announcement on Thursday that Iraq's largest Sunni Muslim political party will not participate in the election won't help. The insurgency is believed to draw most of its support from Sunnis, who provided much of Saddam Hussein's former Baath Party membership. \nDelaware Senator Joe Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he found the security situation in Iraq worse during a trip in December than on three previous visits since the invasion. \n"We basically have no trouble achieving any military objective; we have considerable trouble securing it," Biden said. \nAmerican patience with the war will soon wear thin, and doing the reconstruction job correctly could mean US troops stay in Iraq far longer than the public expects, he said. That leaves two options for Bush as he begins his second term, Biden said. \n"We muddle through for the next year, declare victory after the second election and leave, and then there would be chaos," Biden said. Or, "level with the American people and tell them we're going to be muddling through for the next four years, or longer." \nBush seemed to acknowledge that Iraq remains Job No. 1 during a year-end news conference. \n"We have a vital interest in the success of a free Iraq. You see, free societies do not export terror," Bush said. \nIran and North Korea, the other two countries in Bush's famous axis, loom nearly as large as Iraq. The US suspects both countries are on their way to possessing nuclear weapons, or already have them. Both have repressive or authoritarian governments that could interfere with their neighbors or worse. \nUS policy in all three nations is yoked to the continuing war on terrorism, since all three are potential training grounds or arsenals for terrorists. \nBush must decide how much to push Iran and North Korea diplomatically; how much to cooperate with European efforts to contain the nuclear threats; and how much to listen to hawks in his own government who may press for a limited airstrike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,
China is poised to enshrine individuals’ rights to privacy and personal data for the first time, a symbolic first step as more of the country of 1.4 billion people becomes digitized — and more vulnerable to leaks and hacks. The legislation is part of China’s first civil code, a sweeping package of laws that is being deliberated during the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, which began on Friday after a delay of more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent draft, an individual has a right to privacy and to have their personal information protected. Data
India has moved additional troops along its northern border as it prepares for an extended conflict with China, after several rounds of talks failed to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. China has already placed about 5,000 soldiers and armored vehicles within its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh region, an Indian government official said, asking not to be identified, citing rules. India is adding a similar number of troops as well as artillery guns along the border to fend off the continuing incursions by the Chinese army, the official said. The standoff began on May 5, when troops clashed