The United States does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty under Washington’s “One China” policy, the State Department said Monday.

The remarks came days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in New York on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly where Blinken told Wang Washington’s “One China” policy has not changed.

While Washington has not agreed to take any position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan, Monday’s statement from the State Department is a rare public comment.

“We don’t take a position on sovereignty, but the policy that has been at the crux of our approach to Taiwan since 1979 remains in effect today,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price during Monday’s briefing. He was asked if Taiwan is part of China under Washington’s “One China” policy.

“What we want to see preserved is the status quo, precisely because the status quo since 1979, more than 40 years now, has undergirded peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. We want to see that continue. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the same could be said of the PRC, which has become only more coercive and intimidating in its actions and its maneuvers across the Taiwan Strait,” said Price.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) claims sovereignty over Taiwan. The U.S. “acknowledges” but does not “endorse” PRC’s position.

“Both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one & the same China. Taiwan is part of China’s territory. China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has never been split. This is the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and one China is at the heart of this status quo,” a spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a tweet.

For decades, the U.S. has been clear that its decision to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1979 rested on the expectation that “the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means,” as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act.

The U.S. also does not support Taiwan independence.

Senior American officials have said Washington’s “One China” policy is “distinct” from Beijing’s “One China” principle.

The U.S. said it remains committed to its long-standing, bipartisan “One China” policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances.

Chinese officials have rejected the Taiwan Relations Act, calling the U.S. law governing its relations with Taiwan “illegal and invalid.”

On August 31, 2020, then-Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell told an audience at a Washington think tank that “the United States has not agreed to take any position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan” and it is important to review history because “Beijing has a habit of distorting it.”

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Ukrainian female fighters who recently met with U.S. State Department officials and members of Congress said they witnessed war crimes committed by Russia during its war on Ukraine. During an interview with VOA, two Ukrainian warriors detailed personal stories and firsthand information on atrocities committed by Russian troops.

United Nations investigators have said there is evidence that Russian forces who invaded Ukraine in February 2022 committed war crimes. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine presented its findings on Friday, September 23, to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

“They [Russian troops] use forbidden ammunitions like cluster munitions and phosphorus bombs that burn everything to the ground. It’s prohibited by all the civilized world,” Daria Zubenko, a senior sergeant in the Ukrainian armed forces, told VOA State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching on Friday. “We know the facts of women being raped and even children.”

Russia has repeatedly dismissed accusations of abuses during its war on Ukraine.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilization to boost troop levels, recruiting civilians of fighting age into the military at a time when Russian armed forces are suffering significant losses.

Despite the buildup, “we don’t fear,” Yaryna Chornoguz, a Ukrainian combat medic and drone operator, told VOA. She added that Ukraine’s counteroffensive, with the new security assistance from the United States, has been making progress. “We believe we win them because of our new weaponry.”

Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $457.5 million in civilian security assistance to boost capacity of Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. A portion of this new assistance will continue U.S. support for the Ukrainian government’s efforts to “document, investigate and prosecute atrocities perpetrated by Russia’s forces,” according to the State Department.

The following includes excerpts from the interviews, which have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Interview with Daria Zubenko

VOA: Can you please tell our audience your name?

Daria Zubenko: My name is Daria Zubenko. I’m a a senior sergeant of Ukrainian armed forces.

VOA: Which area in Ukraine are you from?

Zubenko: I was born in Chernihiv. It’s the north part of Ukraine. Mostly I lived in Kyiv, studied there and worked there.

VOA: What have you seen during the war?

Zubenko: I was in the armed forces officially since 2018. Before, I was a volunteer paramedic in 2015. I spent some time on the front line in 2015 around Mariupol region near Donetsk. I gave first aid. And then, after a break, I joined the official armed forces and became an instructor of sniper school.

With the full-scale invasion in the end of February, I took part in operations around Kyiv when there was war and combat battles around Kyiv region and also in Chernihiv region. I was in Irpin, I was in the village Moshchun that is north from Kyiv, where Russians were stopped. And then we had operations in Chernihiv region, going into the villages that have just been left by Russians.

I saw people coming out of their houses. When they saw Ukrainian troops and Ukrainian flags, they started crying and saying, ‘Thank you, boys and girls, finally you came.’ Most of them asked ‘Please make sure that Russians never come back.’

What those people have experienced is really horrible. We saw pictures of Bucha, Irpin and recently liberated cities like Izium, Kupyansk, and all these mass graves, all this evidence of people being tortured, captured and killed.

In [a] small village of Yahidne near Chernihiv, people spent about a month locked in the basement. Russian troops didn’t let them go out — there were about 200 people there in one place, with small children. The youngest child was 3 months old.

And there were some older people — none of them unfortunately could survive all of this. Some men were taken out of this basement and convoyed by Russians to the forest and shot. I saw women who just received the news about their husbands being killed — I felt ashamed that we just let this happen.

Russian (troops) don’t have any principles or any rules of war when dealing with civilians. That’s why we hope to liberate our cities and towns as soon as possible.

VOA: Today, the U.N. investigators said they found evidence of war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. Do you think it’s a valid finding?

Zubenko: It’s good that these crimes are being investigated. The evidence is found, gathered, and we can finally get some punishment to those who are doing that. For Russia, no international law ever worked.

We know the facts of women being raped and even children. We know evidence of people being killed (while) trying to evacuate. They (Russian troops) were shooting civilian cars. We know people have been captured and held somewhere in the basement and tortured.

VOA: Do you agree with the finding that Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine?

Zubenko: Absolutely. We know, for example, they use forbidden ammunitions like cluster munitions and phosphorus bombs that burn everything to the ground. It’s prohibited by all the civilized world. But for Russia, it’s OK. We saw it with our own eyes. We just need the world to react properly and for Russia to be completely isolated.

Interview with Yaryna Chornoguz

VOA: Can you please tell our audience your name, and where on the front line you were fighting?

Yaryna Chornoguz: My name is Yaryna Chornoguz. I’m a soldier of Reconnaissance Battalion of Ukraine Marine Corps which belongs to Ukraine Defense Forces. I’m here right from the front line from the Donetsk Region. My battalion has been on the front lines during 13 months. We have seen plenty of towns, Donetsk region, Mariupol, Bakhmut, Sloviansk, and the others.

VOA: What have you seen during the war?

Chornoguz: First, when the war started, our battalion had been eight months on the rotation in [the] Luhansk region. And then at the end of February we were relocated to the Mariupol direction in order to reinforce our embattled forces there.

But when we came to the outskirts of Mariupol, it was already in battle. We tried to restrain the breakthrough in the Mariupol city to the north of Ukraine. And there, my battalion, we had really hard battles. I was on the observation post on the fuel road when we see a big long Russian tank column that moved on us and on the Ukrainian village and we had hard battles. My commander was killed.

I saw with my own eyes how Russian tanks destroyed and ruined villages of Ukrainians. During the first month of [Russia’s] full-scale invasion, I had a quite hard experience to help not only wounded soldiers because I’m a combat medic, but also a civilian.

I already told that story to the American news [outlets] about rescuing the boy age 10 from the basement and his mother with a 10-month [old] child in her hands. I just had this picture before my eyes when we took the boy in a blanket … to our military car and evacuated that village. Every day, it was bombed by cluster munitions by Russians.

What I can say now is that [the] HIMARS system, and the Howitzers that we got from the U.S. changed everything. They [Russian troops] came with such big forces, with such long tank columns and we managed to stop them. And I believe that we’ve made counteroffensive.

VOA: Thousands of Russians, men of fighting age, are fleeing the country after the partial mobilization [of civilians into the military] order from the government. What does that tell you?

Chornoguz: I can tell you that Ukrainians are joking about this conscription of Russians that Putin has announced. Because you know, for artillery that we got from our allies, and with our experience — it doesn’t matter whether it’s 10 occupants per square meters or whether it’s 100. It doesn’t matter. We believe we win them because of our new weaponry. We don’t fear.

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The U.S. Department of Commerce Monday cited a fourth Iranian cargo plane for flying into Russia, adding it to a list of planes believed to be in violation of U.S. sanctions against Russia.

The U.S. Department of Commerce said in a statement that the cargo plane belongs to Saha Airlines, which is owned by the Iranian Air Force. On Sept. 19, the department added three other Iranian cargo planes to a list of those in apparent violation of U.S. export controls, Reuters reported.   

The fourth cargo plane flew to Russia without permission from the Department of Commerce, its statement said. 

“Last Monday, we announced that three Iranian cargo planes have been backfilling items to Russia in an attempt to circumvent our hard-hitting export controls,” Matthew Axelrod, assistant secretary of commerce for export enforcement, said in a statement. “Today, we’ve identified a fourth Iranian cargo plane that has flown to Russia in violation of our controls, this one under the control of the Iranian Air Force. Given Iran’s support for Russia’s war machine, including the recent provisioning of unmanned aerial vehicles, we are alerting the global aviation community that support for such aircraft violates our controls and is subject to enforcement action.”

According to reports, Iran has sent hundreds of drones to help Russia in its war with Ukraine. Iranian authorities have officially denied these reports. 

But the Kayhan newspaper, which is close to the leader of the Islamic Republic, confirmed Saturday that “hundreds of Iranian combat drones” have been exported to Russia. 

Some information for this article came from Reuters. 

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Falling water levels have people in the Midwest state of Nebraska planning to dig a canal to get water from a river in the Western state of Colorado. VOA Correspondent Scott Stearns has our story.

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French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Washington in early December for the first state visit of President Joe Biden’s tenure, an occasion marked by pomp and pageantry that is designed to celebrate relations between the United States and its closest allies.

The December 1 visit, following the U.S. midterm elections and the Thanksgiving holiday, will be the second state visit for Macron, who was first elected to lead his country in May 2017 and won a second term earlier this year. Macron also had a state visit during the Trump years.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced the visit Monday, saying it will “underscore the deep and enduring relationship with France, our oldest ally.” It will be the first time the White House has hosted a world leader for a state visit since the coronavirus outbreak.

The invitation comes as a sign that relations between Biden and Macron have come full circle. The relationship tanked last year after the United States announced a deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia. The decision by the U.S. undermined a deal that had been in place for France to sell diesel-powered submarines to Australia.

After the announcement of the deal, which was born out of a new security agreement between the U.S., Australia and Britain, France briefly recalled its ambassador to Washington, Philippe Etienne, to Paris. Biden also sought to patch thing up with France by eventually acknowledging to Macron that his administration had been “clumsy” in how it handled the issue.

The Biden administration since has heaped praise on Macron for being among the most vociferous Western allies in condemning Russia’s 7-month-old war in Ukraine and pressing broad sanctions on the Russian economy and officials close to President Vladimir Putin.

Central to Biden’s pitch for the presidency was a vow to restore America’s global leadership after four years of Donald Trump’s “America First” worldview. But Biden has acknowledged that Macron and other allies remain skeptical about whether he can make good on robust U.S. leadership worldwide.

Biden is fond of telling the story of how, at a world leader meeting he attended soon after taking office, he declared that “America is back.” He says his counterparts, starting with Macron, countered by asking, “For how long?”

Macron also was the first world leader to earn a state visit under Trump, though their relationship later became fractious.

The French leader had sought to cultivate a close partnership with Trump and hosted the Republican in 2017 for Bastille Day celebrations in Paris. Trump reciprocated with Macron’s state visit.

But the relationship soured after Trump pulled U.S. troops from Syria without coordinating with France and other NATO allies. Trump disparaged NATO.

In one of their last face-to-face encounters, at a gathering of NATO leaders in London in 2019, Trump and Macron hardly hid their frustration with each other.

Not long before that meeting, Macron had complained that the alliance was suffering “brain death” caused by diminished U.S. leadership under Trump. Trump snapped back after a meeting with Macron that the French leader had made “very, very nasty” and “disrespectful” comments.

When Macron visited in April 2018, Trump and his wife, Melania, planned a double date with Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at Mount Vernon, the Virginia estate of George Washington, America’s founding president.

The couples helped plant a tree on the White House lawn before they departed on a helicopter tour of monuments built in a capital city designed by French-born Pierre L’Enfant as they flew south to Mount Vernon, situated along the Potomac River. Macron was welcomed at the White House the next day with a booming 21-gun salute, his first Oval Office meeting with Trump, a joint news conference with the president and a state dinner for 150 guests in the White House State Dining Room.

Scott Morrison, then the prime minister of Australia, also came on a state visit at Trump’s invitation in September 2019. Trump had announced a third state visit, by Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, but it was postponed due to the pandemic and could not be held before Trump lost reelection in 2020.

President Barack Obama also afforded France the honor of a state visit, in 2014.

Obama and French President Francois Hollande celebrated ties between their nations by touring Monticello, the sprawling Charlottesville, Virginia, estate owned by Thomas Jefferson, the former U.S. president and famed Francophile. Jefferson was an early U.S. envoy to France.

Hollande’s visit was the first such recognition for France in two decades.

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Denmark’s maritime authority said Monday that a gas leak had been observed in a pipeline leading from Russia to Europe underneath the Baltic Sea and that there is a danger to ship traffic.

The operator of Nord Stream 2 confirmed that a leak in the pipeline had been detected southeast of the Danish island Bornholm in the Baltic Sea.

The pipeline runs 1,230 kilometers (764 miles) from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany. It is completed and filled with gas, but gas has never been imported through it, dpa reported.

The cause of the detected leak wasn’t immediately clear.

The Danish energy agency said in a statement that the country’s maritime authority has issued a navigation warning and established a five-nautical mile prohibition zone around the pipeline “as it is dangerous for ship traffic.”

The relevant authorities are currently coordinating the effort, and the Danish energy agency added that “outside the exclusion zone, there are no security risks associated with the leak.”

The incident is not expected to have consequences for the security of the supply of Danish gas, the country’s energy agency said.

A spokesman for the operator of Nord Stream 2 said a loss of pressure was detected in a tube early Monday, and the responsible marine authorities in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Russia were immediately informed, dpa reported.

While the pressure inside the pipeline is normally 105 bar, it is now only 7 bar on the German side, spokesman Ulrich Lissek said.

He fears that the pipeline, filled with 177 million cubic meters of gas, could run dry in the coming days, dpa reported.

It wasn’t immediately clear what consequences would follow from that, but a German environmental group said that the leaking gas isn’t toxic.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe pointed out that natural gas is methane, which partially dissolves in water and is not toxic. The deeper the gas is released in the sea, the higher the proportion that dissolves in the water, the group said, according to dpa.

Even in the event of an underwater explosion, there would only be local effects, Deutsche Umwelthilfe said.

The German economy ministry said it had been informed about the suspected site in Danish territorial waters and was in touch with the authorities in Germany and Denmark.

The pipeline was already complete when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suspended the certification of Nord Stream 2 on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, after Russia formally recognized two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Germany has been heavily reliant on natural gas supplies from Russia, but since Moscow launched its war in Ukraine on Feb. 24, Berlin has been trying to look for other sources of energy.

The leak comes a day before the inauguration of a new pipeline, Baltic Pipe, which will bring Norwegian gas through Denmark to Poland. The Norwegian gas is meant to have an important role in replacing Russian gas.

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President Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden, according to a decree signed by the Russian leader on Monday. 

Snowden is one of 75 foreign nationals listed by the decree as being granted Russian citizenship. The decree was published on an official government website. 

Snowden, a former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency, has been living in Russia since 2013 to escape prosecution in the U.S. after leaking classified documents detailing government surveillance programs. 

He was granted permanent residency in 2020 and said at the time that he planned to apply for Russian citizenship, without renouncing his U.S. citizenship. 

 

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The U.S. is committing another $457.5 million in law enforcement and civilian security assistance to Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday. 

The top U.S. diplomat said Washington expects the aid, along with $187 million sent to Kyiv earlier, will continue to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s seven-month invasion and sends money directly to the National Police of Ukraine and the State Border Guard Service. 

“Our provision of personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and armored vehicles has significantly reduced casualties for Ukrainian civilians and their defenders,” Blinken said. 

Some of the new money, he said, would help Ukraine to continue to investigate and prosecute Russian troops who have committed atrocities against Ukrainian forces and civilians, thousands of whom have been killed in the warfare. 

“The United States stands side-by-side with the Ukrainian people and remains committed to supporting a democratic, independent and sovereign Ukraine,” Blinken said in announcing the aid package. 

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