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AUKUS threat to countries like Sri Lanka, says China’s Ambassador

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AUKUS, a trilateral security pact among Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, would create a security risk for Sri Lanka and others in the region, Qi Zhenhong, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka said in a statement.

He added that this move was a violation of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) which many countries entered into in the 1970s.

Zhenhong said that Australia’s construction of nuclear submarines violated the commitments it made when signing the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, and also will cause serious breaches in the efforts of ASEAN countries to build a nuclear weapon-free zone and the Indian Ocean to create a “Zone of Peace”. In addition, AUKUS attempts to engage in maritime hegemony, might lead to a new round of regional arms race, thus undermining the precious peace situation in the region and casting a shadow over the security, stability and prosperity in the region

“Nuclear submarines frequently entering the Indian Ocean will escalate the nuclear arms race or some hegemonies ganging up in clique and forcing small and medium-sized countries to take sides, will inevitably bring huge security risks to Sri Lanka. Therefore, the international community, especially regional countries, should pay serious attention to and resolutely oppose this bad behaviour, which seriously undermines regional peace and stability, accelerate the arms race, and undermines international nuclear non-proliferation efforts. We should bring the hanging Sword of Damocles back into its sheath, and jointly safeguard international peace, security and stability,” he said.

Given below are excerpts of his statement: “Recently, the United States, Britain and Australia announced the establishment of AUKUS, a trilateral security pact which will provide Australia with at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. This is like holding up a “Sword of Damocles” on the heads of countries in the Pacific-Indian Ocean regional countries, which has aroused widespread doubts and deep concerns from the international community, and a great threat of nuclear proliferation, arms race and more unstable regional and international security situation.

“Firstly, the move is a serious violation of the spirit of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which brings great risks of nuclear proliferation. The NPT which entered into effect in 1970 is regarded as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime by the international community. However, the Treaty lacks clear provisions regarding the transfer of nuclear reactors for submarines, and the safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is unable to verify whether the relevant materials are used to develop nuclear weapons. The United States, Britain, and Australia had exploited these weaknesses. In addition, the American and British nuclear submarines use weapons-grade highly enriched uranium with an abundance of over 90%. Exporting nuclear submarines to Australia means that a large number of highly sensitive nuclear materials and technologies are transferred without the effective safeguard of IAEA, which will inevitably bring the risk of proliferation of nuclear technologies and nuclear materials. On September 17th, the Indonesian government issued a statement stressed the importance of Australia’s commitment to continue meeting all of its nuclear non-proliferation obligations, and called on Australia to maintain its commitment towards regional peace, stability and security.

“Secondly, this move may induce a new round of arms race, which will undermine regional prosperity and stability. As a country straddling the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, Australia’s construction of nuclear submarines in defiance of the world completely violates the commitments it made when signing the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, and also will cause serious breaches in the efforts of ASEAN countries to build nuclear weapon-free zone and the Indian Ocean to create a “Zone of Peace”. In addition, AUKUS attempts to engage in maritime hegemony, which may introduce a new round of regional arms race, thus undermining the precious peace situation in the region and casting a shadow over the security, stability and prosperity in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the AUKUS, a security partnership between Australia, Britain and the United States, “undoubtedly” undermines regional stability. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that Indonesia does not want an escalating arms race and power projection in the region that will threaten security and stability. Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob expressed Malaysia’s stance on AUKUS when he received a telephone call from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying it would be a “catalyst for a nuclear arms race in the Indo-Pacific region. As a country within ASEAN, Malaysia holds the principle of maintaining ASEAN as a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality, and urges all parties to avoid any provocation and arms competition in the region.”

“Thirdly, this move promotes a barefaced “double-standard” and forms racist “small clique”. The United States and Britain launched the notorious Iraq War on the unwarranted charge of suspecting the development of weapons of mass destruction, and do not allow Iran and North Korea to possess nuclear weapons, but turn a blind eye to the development of nuclear weapons by their ally Israel and provide nuclear submarines to another ally Australia. Under the barefaced “double-standard”, they piece together the “Anglo-Saxon” military cooperation clique with racism and cold war color, and wantonly played and trampled on international rules. According to the Atlantic Monthly, AUKUS is in effect a new “Anglo” military alliance. “The three nations have fought together for most of the past 100 years and are core members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. The announcement (of AUKUS) only reinforces its belief in the difference between Europe and the Anglo-Saxon world.”

“China believes that nuclear weapons, the Sword of Damocles hanging over mankind, should be completely prohibited and thoroughly destroyed over time to make the world free of nuclear weapons. China has always maintained its nuclear power at the lowest level required by national security, and has always made every effort to maintain the international non-proliferation system and actively promoted the multilateral arms control process. The establishment of a small security clique by the United States, Britain and Australia, frantically probing at the edge of nuclear proliferation, opening the Pandora’s Box of the arms race, and undermining peace and stability in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, is a reversal of history trend, which has already been widely questioned and condemned by the international community including its own country and neighboring countries.

“Recently, an American nuclear submarine crashed in the South China Sea and went unreported, a hit and run accident sending out a very realistic warning. Although no nuclear leakage caused by this accident has been confirmed yet, its nature is very serious, and there are great hidden dangers in nuclear proliferation and nuclear safety, which will lead to a nuclear disaster if it is not done well. Sri Lanka is located at the center of Indian Ocean. No matter, its nuclear submarines frequently entering the Indian Ocean, the nuclear arms race escalating, or some hegemonies ganging up in clique and forcing small and medium-sized countries to take sides, it will inevitably bring huge security risks to Sri Lanka. Therefore, the international community, especially regional countries, should pay serious attention to and resolutely oppose this bad behavior, which seriously undermines regional peace and stability, accelerate the arms race, and undermines international nuclear non-proliferation efforts. We should bring the hanging Sword of Damocles back into its sheath, and jointly safeguard international peace, security and stability.”



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GL explains to UN Special Rapporteur Lanka’s progress related to labour welfare

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Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has explained to UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, including its causes and consequences, Tomoya Obokata, Sri Lanka’s progress related to labour welfare and the constructive steps taken by the government to eradicate child labour.

The Minister also elaborated on steps taken to bring our labour laws in line with international standards in a number of areas, including child labour, migrant workers and debt bondage. The Special Rapporteur commended Sri Lanka on the progress made with regard to making Sri Lanka a ‘child labour free zone’.

The UN official called on Prof. Peiris on Friday, 26 November, at the Foreign Ministry.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur includes but is not limited to issues such as: traditional slavery, debt bondage, forced labour, children in slavery and slavery-like conditions, sexual slavery, forced and early marriages as well as issues faced by migrant workers and foreign labour.

The Foreign Minister outlined that Sri Lanka was conscious of protecting vulnerable labour groups and emphasized that Sri Lanka will continue to cooperate with the United Nations system. He stated that visits by Special Procedures Mandate Holders have been helpful in enhancing understanding of the specificities of Sri Lanka’s experiences in related fields as well as in improving domestic processes to be in line with our international commitments.

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More gas explosions

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Two women injured

By Rathindra Kuruwita

There were 11 new explosions related to domestic gas cylinders in the 24 hours that ended at 12 noon yesterday. Among the areas these explosions were reported are Agama, Karana, Hungnam, Walasmulla, Kundasale, Katugastota, Dimbula and Giriulla.

Two women have been injured in these latest explosions. In some instances, the gas cooker wasn’t even on when the explosions happened.

Meanwhile, Litro has introduced the hotline, 1311, for the public to make any complaints with regard to their gas cylinders. Once a complaint is received, a team of technicians will arrive and check the cylinder, the company said.

Litro also urged the public not to try any experiments to see if the cylinders are safe.

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Countries tighten travel rules to slow Omicron spread

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Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Norway, Ghana confirm first cases of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant as countries tighten travel rules.

The United States, Japan and Malaysia have announced tighter travel restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant as more countries confirmed their first cases.

Japan and Hong Kong said on Wednesday they would expand travel curbs, and Malaysia temporarily banned travellers from countries deemed at risk, news agencies reported.

Hong Kong added Japan, Portugal and Sweden to its travel restrictions while Uzbekistan said it would suspend flights with Hong Kong as well as South Africa. Japan, which had already barred all new foreign entrants, reported its second case of the new variant and said it would expand its entry ban to foreigners with resident status from 10 African countries.

Malaysia temporarily barred travellers from eight African countries and said Britain and the Netherlands could join the list.

In North America, air travellers to the US were set to face tougher COVID-19 testing rules.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Tuesday that the US would require all air travellers entering the country to show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure.

Currently, vaccinated international travellers can present a negative result obtained within three days from their point of departure. The new one-day testing requirement would apply to US citizens as well as foreign nationals.

Global spread

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry said it recorded the Gulf’s first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in a citizen returning from North Africa.

Nigeria said it had confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant among travellers who had arrived from South Africa in the past week. Ghana and Norway also reported their first cases of the new variant on Wednesday.

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa said late on Tuesday that two Brazilians had tested positive for the Omicron strain, the first reported cases in Latin America. A traveller arriving in Sao Paulo from South Africa and his wife, who had not travelled, had tested positive.

Germany, which is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, reported that four fully vaccinated people had tested positive for Omicron in the south of the country but had moderate symptoms.

It also reported the highest number of deaths from coronavirus since mid-February on Wednesday, as hospitals warned that the country could have 6,000 people in intensive care by Christmas, above the peak of last winter.

Other countries braced for more cases: Australia said at least two people visited several locations in Sydney while likely infectious and Denmark said an infected person had taken part in a large concert.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said “blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”, while advising those unwell, vulnerable or 60 years or over and unvaccinated to postpone travel.

Global health officials have offered reassurances and reiterated calls for people to get vaccinated.

BioNTech’s CEO said the vaccine it makes in a partnership with Pfizer would likely offer strong protection against severe disease from Omicron.

European Medicines Agency Executive Director Emer Cooke earlier said that laboratory analyses should indicate over the next couple of weeks whether the blood of vaccinated people has sufficient antibodies to neutralise the new variant.

The European Union brought forward the start of its vaccine distribution programme for five-to-11-year-old children by a week to December 13.

Britain, the US and European countries have expanded their booster programmes in response to the new variant.

First reported in South Africa a week ago, Omicron has highlighted the disparity between substantial vaccination pushes in rich nations and sparse inoculation in the developing world.

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