U.S.-China Rivalry Looms Large at Shangri-La

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at a key security summit in Singapore, Guatemala’s exclusion of opposition presidential candidates ahead of elections, and Japan’s efforts to reverse lagging birth rates.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at a key security summit in Singapore, Guatemala’s exclusion of opposition presidential candidates ahead of elections, and Japan’s efforts to reverse lagging birth rates.

Stormy U.S.-China ties are set to dominate conversations as defense officials convene for the Shangri-La Dialogue, a major annual security summit that kicked off Friday in Singapore and stretches through Sunday. Over 600 delegates representing nearly 50 countries will take part.

From the outset, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese used his keynote address to stress the importance of communication between Washington and Beijing. Without the “pressure valve of dialogue,” he said, “there is always a much greater risk of assumptions spilling over into irretrievable action and reaction.” The ramifications of such a collapse, he warned, “would be devastating for the world.”

China has rejected U.S. efforts to set up a meeting at the summit between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. Beijing responded pointedly, arguing that Washington should “show sincerity” and “create necessary conditions for dialogue.” Even without a set meeting, Austin and Li were seen shaking hands on Friday, and observers will be watching closely for other exchanges in Singapore.

European leaders, meanwhile, hope to harness the summit to mobilize support for Kyiv among Asian countries. A high-profile grouping of officials—including EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace—are all expected to meet at the forum.

Guatemala excludes opposition. Guatemala has disqualified presidential candidate Carlos Pineda, a key front-runner, from competing in the country’s elections on June 25. The decision is the latest in a jarring pattern of exclusions—three other opposition candidates have also been blocked from the vote—fueling fears of further democratic erosion in a country already struggling with rampant corruption.

A panel of judges said the decision hinged on irregularities surrounding Pineda’s nomination; he has refuted the allegations. After the decision was announced, Pineda tweeted: “Corruption won, Guatemala lost!” The United States, European Union, and Organization of American States have all condemned the candidates’ disqualification.

Japan targets birth rates. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has vowed to pour $25 billion into policies to stimulate the country’s shrinking birth rate, building on long-standing government efforts that include expanding daycare options and ramping up financial support to parents. “This will bring our country’s spending per child on families to the level of Sweden,” Kishida said on Thursday.

Kishida’s pledge comes as Japan’s birth rate plunged to a historic low in 2022, marking the seventh straight year of decline, authorities announced on Friday. For years, the country’s demographic challenges have compounded economic and workforce pressures.

Senegal shutters social media. Senegal has blocked access to major social media platforms following deadly clashes that erupted over opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s controversial conviction on Thursday. Sonko, who is seen as a key challenger to President Macky Sall ahead of the country’s 2024 election, faced multiple charges: rape, making death threats, and “corrupting youth.” Although he was acquitted of the first two charges, he was convicted of corrupting youth and sentenced to two years in prison—a verdict that could prevent him from running next year.

Sonko has said the charges are politically motivated. At least nine people were killed after protests broke out in the wake of Thursday’s verdict.

What are fans of musical artist Taylor Swift reportedly experiencing following their attendance at Eras Tour shows?

Fans have also reported out-of-body experiences and entering dreamlike states, according to the BBC.

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Just days after breaking into a Canadian pastry shop and stealing six cupcakes, a regretful burglar called the store’s owner to apologize and pay around $850 to fix the store’s front door. He also complimented the owner, Emma Irvine, on the flavor of the stolen cupcakes. “I think he just wanted some delicious cupcakes,” Irvine said. She does not want to press charges.

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