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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to China is part of the great power politics currently being played out between the West and the global south. 

In this arena, China’s President Xi Jinping is promoting his multipolar view of the world, a realignment of the world’s geopolitical centre away from the US and Europe, to Asia.

Pic: Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend an official welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China May 16, 2024. Sputnik/Sergei Bobylev/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing, China. Sputnik/Sergei Bobylev/Pool via Reuters

Xi sees China front and centre on the stage, with a coterie of countries to back him up.

China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are at one end of the spectrum, but widen out the view and there is also Brazil, India and South Africa, who all see the world through a lens at odds with the West.

Added to that is the so-called “no-limits” friendship between Russia and China. It has been tested to the limit as Russia continues its war in Ukraine. But there is no sign China has any plan to abandon its neighbour.

So what will China want to talk about?

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First, the Russia-Ukraine war. China is under growing pressure from the US and Europe to rein in exports of dual-use items like semiconductors and machinery tools that Russia can use on the battlefield.

But if China is feeling the heat, you wouldn’t know it. Its exports to Russia surged last year. The way Xi Jinping sees it, Russia is another market for China’s export driven economy, and with Western companies banned from doing business with Russia, China has stepped in to take advantage of it.

Why Putin may visit Vietnam next

There is a possibility, Vladimir Putin will visit Vietnam after his summit with Xi Jingping in Beijing, or later this month. It would be Putin’s first state visit to the country since 2017.

Vietnam is one of Russia’s three closest partners in Asia, alongside China and North Korea.

Experts suggest a visit from Putin would signal to the world that he’s committed to a “Turn to the East” policy and allow the Russian leader to show that Western efforts to isolate his government over its invasion of Ukraine have failed.

Maintaining a close connection to Moscow is a priority for the Vietnamese leadership. They have a tricky balancing act trying to juggle ties with both America and China.

Beijing’s encroachments into the South China Sea represents a potential territorial threat to Hanoi. Whilst America is an obvious counterweight to that, the US is also considered a threat to the ruling Communist Party.

Welcoming Putin to Hanoi, a leader the West has sought to cut off, is proof the Vietnam government wants close relationships with as many powerful nations as possible.

Russia is one of its seven so-called “strategic partners” and it would come as no surprise if Putin does touch down in Hanoi. Vietnam could also be expected to seek an arms deal with its historical ally and replenish its ageing Soviet-era military equipment.

China is also resisting pressure from the West to use its leverage to force Mr Putin to wind down the war.

While President Xi doesn’t want to see Russia in the grip of collapse, after all they share a 2,500-mile-long border, a long, grinding war in Ukraine has benefits for China.

It drains European energy and resources, distracts the US and allows China to get on with its territorial claims in Asia and its ambition to dominate international trade in EVs, solar panels and batteries.

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In this Sino-Russian relationship, China has the upper hand. It’s receiving cheap raw materials from Russia and paying 30% less for natural gas than Europe did before the war. China is calling the shots.

While Mr Putin and Mr Xi have an enduring friendship, this alignment is a thorn in the side for the West. But there seems little Europe and the US can do about it. Threats aren’t working, sanctioning Chinese banks might.

For Beijing, it’s all about balance. China needs the US and Europe to remain open to its exports. So far, it has been able to have it all. However, it’s becoming increasingly untenable for the West to stand by while China stands with Russia.

A time may yet come when President Xi Jinping is forced to make a choice.

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Four girls stabbed at cinema in Massachusetts

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Four girls stabbed at cinema in Massachusetts

Four girls aged between nine and 17 were stabbed in an “unprovoked” attack at a cinema in Massachusetts, US police have said.

A 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were also found stabbed in a McDonald’s restaurant in an incident that may be connected, according to officers.

A man, whose identity has not been released, was taken into custody following a vehicle chase that ended in a crash in Sandwich, Cape Cod.

Police said a man came into the AMC Braintree 10 complex, south of Boston, at about 6pm local time on Saturday and entered one of the movie theatres without paying.

“Without saying anything and without any warning, he suddenly attacked the four young females,” the Braintree police department said in a statement.

“The attack appeared to be unprovoked. After the attack, the man ran out and left in a vehicle.”

The girls sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to hospitals in Boston for treatment.

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The suspect’s vehicle – what appeared to be a black SUV – and number plate was seen on camera, police said.

A vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle was later seen in Plymouth, about 27 miles south of Braintree.

Police said it had left a McDonald’s restaurant, where a 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were found stabbed and both were taken to hospitals with injuries.

Police found the vehicle another 20 miles south, in Sandwich, and attempted to pull it over, but it didn’t stop and later crashed.

The driver was taken into custody shortly afterward and was being treated at a hospital.

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Passengers and crew injured after turbulence on Qatar Airways flight to Dublin

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Passengers and crew injured after turbulence on Qatar Airways flight to Dublin

Eight people have been taken to hospital due to turbulence on a flight to Dublin.

Dublin Airport said six passengers and six crew members on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin were hurt after experiencing turbulence over Turkey.

In a later statement, the airport said all passengers were assessed for injury before getting off the plane and eight were taken to hospital.

Graeme McQueen, a spokesman for DAA, the operator of Dublin Airport, told Sky News the aircraft was met by emergency services upon landing shortly before 1pm on Sunday.

The scene at Dublin Airport

Qatar Airways described the injuries sustained by passengers and crew as “minor”.

It said: “[They] are now receiving medical attention… The safety and security of our passengers and crew are our top priority.”

An internal investigation into what happened has now been launched.

Read more:
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Earlier this week, in a separate incident, a British man died on a Singapore Airlines flight after extreme turbulence on a Heathrow-Singapore journey.

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Singapore Airlines passenger Josh Silverstone describes ordeal

Turbulence is defined as a sudden change in airflow and wind speed.

It can often be associated with storm clouds, which are usually well forecast and monitored, allowing planes to fly around them, Sky News weather producer Jo Robinson said.

Clear-air turbulence (CAT) is much more dangerous as there are no visual signs, such as clouds.

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This invisible vertical air movement usually occurs at and above 15,000ft and is mostly linked to the jet stream.

It is unclear what type of turbulence the Qatar Airways flight went through.

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Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide – as ‘major destruction’ hampers rescue efforts

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Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide - as 'major destruction' hampers rescue efforts

More than 2,000 people have been buried by a massive landslide in northern Papua New Guinea, the country’s disaster agency has said.

The landslide levelled the mountainous Kaokalam village in Enga Province – about 370 miles (600km) northwest of the capital Port Moresby.

It hit the Pacific nation at around 3am local time on Friday (6pm on Thursday UK time), and the United Nations had earlier said it estimated 670 people had been killed. Local officials had initially put the number of dead at 100 or more.

People search through a landslide in Yambali village. Pic: Kafuri Yaro/UNDP Papua New Guinea via AP
Image:
People search through a landslide in Yambali village. Pic: Kafuri Yaro/UNDP Papua New Guinea via AP

The Papua New Guinea national disaster centre said the landslide had buried more than 2,000 people.

“The landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive and caused major destruction to buildings, food gardens and caused major impact on the economic lifeline of the country,” an official from the national disaster centre said in a letter to the United Nations.

Earlier, Serhan Aktoprak, head of the United Nations’ International Organisation for Migration mission on the island nation, said the figure of 670 deaths was based on calculations by local officials that more than 150 homes had been buried. The previous estimate was 60 homes.

“They are estimating that more than 670 people [are] under the soil at the moment,” he said.

More than 4,000 people were likely impacted by the disaster, humanitarian group CARE Australia said earlier.

It said the area was “a place of refuge for those displaced by [nearby] conflicts”.

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters
Image:
Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters
Image:
Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

About six villages were affected by the landslide in the province’s Mulitaka region, according to Australia‘s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Three bodies were pulled from an area where 50 to 60 homes were destroyed. Six people, including a child, were pulled from the rubble alive, the UN’s Papua New Guinea office said.

But hopes of finding more survivors were diminishing.

Pic: AP
Villagers use heavy machinery to search through a landslide in Yambali in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Sunday, May 26, 2024. The International Organization for Migration feared Sunday the death toll from a massive landslide is much worse than what authorities initially estimated. (Mohamud Omer/International Organization for Migration via AP)
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Villagers use heavy machinery to search through the landslide. Pic: AP

Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP
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Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP

The landslide left debris up to eight metres deep across 200 sq km (77 sq miles), cutting off road access, which was making relief efforts difficult. Helicopters were the only way to reach the area.

Survivors searched through tonnes of earth and rubble by hand looking for missing relatives while a first emergency convoy delivered food, water and other provisions on Saturday.

However, Mr Aktoprak added: “Hopes to take the people out alive from the rubble have diminished now.”

In February, at least 26 men were killed in Enga Province in an ambush amid tribal violence that prompted Prime Minister James Marape to give arrest powers to the country’s military.

Mr Marape has said disaster officials, the defence force and the department of works and highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. Emmanuel Eralia via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.?
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A damaged house after the landslide. Pic: Reuters

People carry bags in the aftermath of a landslide in Enga Province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024, in this still image obtained from a video. Andrew Ruing/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT
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Locals carry their belongings away from the scene of the landslide. Pic: Reuters

Papua New Guinea, with a population of around 10 million, is a diverse, developing nation of mostly subsistence farmers with 800 languages. There are few roads outside the larger cities.

It is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where much of the world’s earthquake and volcanic activity occurs.

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In March, the country was hit by a 6.9-magnitude earthquake.

The US and Australia are building closer defence ties with the strategically important nation, while China is also seeking closer security and economic ties.

US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said their governments stood ready to help respond to the landslide.

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