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World breaking news today (July 23): China blasts Houston consulate shutdown as Trump election gambit

13:43 | 23/07/2020

World breaking news today (July 23): China blasts Houston consulate shutdown as an attempt to blame Beijing for American failures ahead of presidential elections. Meanwhile, Alaska magnitude of 7.8 earthquake, Ethiopian cargo plane catches fire in China, Chinese ships' long appearance at disputed Senkaku islands and oil price also make headlines today. 

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world breaking news today july 23 china blasts houston consulate shutdown as trump election gambit
The US has ordered China to shut its consulate in Houston over spying concerns (Photo: Dallas News) 

China blasts Houston consulate shutdown as Trump election gambit

The United States government’s announcement to shutdown China’s consulate in Houston is considered by Chinese state media as an attempt to blame Beijing for American failures ahead of presidential elections in November.

The United States said on Wednesday it had given China 72 hours to close the consulate “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”, marking a dramatic escalation of tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

As reported by Reuters, China’s embassy to the United States described the move to close the Houston consulate as a “political provocation” and called on Washington to “immediately revoke” the decision. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying wrote on Twitter that China would “surely react with firm countermeasures”.  

The US’s move is described by China Daily, the official English-language newspaper as “a new gambit in the U.S. administration’s bid to paint China as a malevolent actor on the world stage, and thus make it an outlaw to the international community.”  

The move shows that lagging behind his presidential election opponent in the polls... the US leader is going all out in his attempts to portray China as an agent of evil,” it added.

​”The November presidential election is driving Washington mad,” China-based tabloid The Global Times commented.

Magnitude 7.8 earthquake strikes off coast of Alaska

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck off southern Alaska's coast, shaking the Alaska Peninsula and briefly sparking tsunami concerns.

The earthquake was centered in the Pacific Ocean about 60 miles southeast of Perryville on the sparsely populated Alaska Peninsula, striking around 10:12 p.m. local time (2:12 a.m. Wednesday ET).

The Alaska Peninsula protrudes from mainland Alaska and is flanked to the southwest by the Aleutian Islands.

Reports of significant damage, if any, weren’t immediately available. A tsunami warning initially was issued for south Alaska and the Alaska Peninsula, but was canceled by early Wednesday.

The warning sent people to higher ground in cities like Sand Point, an island community of about 1,000 people off the peninsula, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Strong shaking was reported on the peninsula, the USGS said. Light to weak shaking was reported around Kodiak, about 300 miles northeast of the quake’s center, and in Anchorage, some 530 miles from the center, according to the USGS.

More than 20 aftershocks followed the quake late Tuesday to early Wednesday, ranging from magnitudes of 2.8 to 6.1, Mercury News said.

world breaking news today july 23 china blasts houston consulate shutdown as trump election gambit
An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck off southern Alaska's coast, shaking the Alaska Peninsula and briefly sparking tsunami concerns (Photo: KelownaNow) 

Ethiopian cargo plane catches fire in China

All crew members exited safely from the plane, that caught fire at Shanghai International Airport soon after landing, as reported by AA.com.

A Boeing 777 ET-ARH cargo plane caught fire at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport in the afternoon (local time), an English-language Chinese newspaper the Global Times reported. The report said the fire was put out at 5:01 p.m. local time (0901GMT).

A statement issued by the Ethiopian Airlines said the plane caught fire while landing at the airport.

China's Civil Aviation Administration and the Ethiopian airline company have begun probing the incident.

As the firefighters were busy dousing flames, authorities had briefly halted flight operation at the airport.

world breaking news today july 23 china blasts houston consulate shutdown as trump election gambit
(Photo: US News and World Reports) 

Chinese ships continuously appeared near disputed Senkaku islands over last 3 months

As reported by Kyodo News, The Japan Coast Guard said four Chinese Coast Guard ships were spotted in waters around the Senkakus on Wednesday, with one of them believed to be equipped with something looking like a machine gun. Coast guard patrol boats warned the four vessels against entering the territorial waters.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga believed China’s repeated activities in the disputed area are “extremely serious”. Japan Coast Guard patrol ships have warned Chinese vessels and Japanese authorities have protested to the Chinese side through diplomatic channels from time to time.

Earlier on July 7, The Diplomat reported that Chinese patrol ships entered the 12-nautical-mile claimed territorial waters around the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands and remained there for “an extended time”, which was again detailed by The Japan Times that the two vessels stayed in the waters around the Senkaku Islands for 39 hours and 23 minutes after crossing into Japan’s territory at around 2:25 a.m. July 4.

According to NHK News, the Japan Coast Guard said that the incursion “was the longest intrusion into the territorial waters by Chinese ships since the Japanese government purchased some of the Senkaku Islands from a private Japanese owner in 2012.” 

world breaking news today july 23 china blasts houston consulate shutdown as trump election gambit
A Japan Self-Defense Force plane flies over the Senkaku Islands. (Photo: CNN)

 Low Oil Prices Force Saudi Arabia To Consider Privatizing State-Held Assets

The world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, plans to put up for privatization state-held assets in the healthcare, education, and water utility sectors in order to raise money while its oil revenues have shrunk with the low oil prices and the crash in demand.  

Saudi Arabia could receive billions of Saudi riyals from such privatizations over the next five years, its finance minister Mohammad Aljadaan said at a video forum hosted by Bloomberg.

The biggest asset sale that Saudi Arabia has made in recent years was the initial public offering (IPO) of 1.5 percent of its oil giant Saudi Aramco in December 2019, with which the Kingdom received US$29.4 billion.

However, privatizations in other sectors have been slow to take off, Bloomberg notes.  

Earlier in July, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the price plunge and the production cuts would hit oil exporters in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) hard, with the combined oil income for those countries expected to plummet by US$270 billion this year compared to 2019. 

The six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—are set to accumulate as much as US$490 billion in combined government deficits between 2020 and 2023, S&P Global Ratings said this week, according to Oil News. 

world breaking news today july 23 china blasts houston consulate shutdown as trump election gambit
The world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, plans to put up for privatization state-held assets in the healthcare, education, and water utility sectors (Photo: Olt News) 
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