US SECRETARY of Defence Lloyd Austin says his country is committed to protecting its Southeast Asian allies against what he called China’s aggression.
‘Beijing’s claim to the vast majority of the South China Sea has no basis in international law,’ Austin said in a conference in Singapore hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.
‘That assertion treads on the sovereignty of the states in the region,’ he added.
Austin further claimed that Washington would work with its regional partners to counter Beijing’s assertive military actions.
The US and China are at odds over a range of issues, including alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the disputed territories in the South China Sea, cyberattacks, and Beijing’s policies regarding Hong Kong.
‘Unfortunately, Beijing’s unwillingness to resolve disputes peacefully and respect the rule of law isn’t just occurring on the water,’ Austin noted. ‘We have also seen aggression against India … destabilising military activity and other forms of coercion against the people of Taiwan … and genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.’
The US air force is deploying over two dozen F-22 Stealth fighters to an exercise in the western Pacific this month, in keeping with the 2018 National Defence Strategy, which called on the US military to be a ‘more lethal, adaptive, and resilient force’.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian rejected the claims made by US Secretary of Defence, saying Washington is looking for its own geopolitical interests via sowing discord among the regional countries.
‘The US ignored the facts, deliberately smeared China, interfered in China’s internal affairs and sowed discords among regional countries with the aim of serving its own geopolitical interest,’ Zhao said. ‘We admonish the US side not to make an issue about China at every turn and do more for the benefit of peace and stability in the region.’
The rivalry between the US and China has intensified in recent years with Beijing’s growing international clout and rapid economic progress, emerging as a viable counter-weight to the US.
China hoped for an improvement in relations under President Joe Biden, who succeeded Donald Trump in January, but the new administration has shown no sign of backing down on hardline policies toward China.
- The Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said that one key lesson for future administrations to learn from the experience gained during the tenure of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani is that there is no benefit in putting one’s trust in the West.
Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks during his last official meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet members on Wednesday.
‘The others should use your experience,’ Ayatollah Khamenei told the meeting. ‘There is a specific experience … that I have noted to you and the people many times before, and let me repeat the same thing here, which is the need for a lack of trust in the West.’
‘This is an experience that the posterity should use. As it became manifest during the tenure of this administration, nothing can be gained from putting one’s trust in the West,’ the Leader said.
President-elect Ebrahim Raeisi’s swearing-in ceremony will be held on August 5. Raeisi won the June 18 presidential election in a landslide, garnering over 18 million votes.
A top Iranian lawmaker says the framework of Iran’s policy at the Vienna talks will not change under the new administration in Tehran.
The Leader added that domestic programmes should in no way be tied to Western states under any circumstances due to the proven failure of such an approach.
‘Wherever you tied your work to the West, you failed, and wherever you rose and moved forward without trusting the West, you succeeded,’ he said in an address to members of the outgoing administration.
‘Wherever you tied issues to an agreement or talks with the West, America and the like, you failed to move forward,’ he said. ‘Because they don’t help. They are the enemies, of course.’
Making a reference to the ongoing talks in Vienna, Austria, to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Ayatollah Khamenei acknowledged the endeavours made by Iranian diplomats, saying, however, that the Americans insisted on their hostile stance against Iran and did not move even one step forward during the talks.
So far, six rounds of negotiations have been held in Vienna, three years after the US unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal, officially called the JCPOA, and brandished what it called the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran.
‘The Americans say in words and promise that ‘we will remove the sanctions’ but they have failed to do so,’ said the Leader, denouncing the US attempts to add new terms to the agreement to push Iran to begin talks on other issues.
Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator says Vienna talks have to allow the country’s democratic transition to take its course.
By adding such a clause, according to the Leader, the Americans are seeking to gain an excuse for further meddlesome acts regarding the JCPOA, Iran’s missile programme and regional issues.
‘And if Iran refuses to talk about those issues, they would say ‘you have violated the JCPOA and therefore there won’t be an agreement anymore,’ he added.
Ayatollah Khamenei drew attention to the fact that the US has refused to provide Iran with a guarantee that it will not violate its commitments again.
He noted that Washington will not shy away from violating its contractual commitments in the same manner it did in 2018, a move that was ‘completely costless’ for them.
- A new oil exports terminal which Iran inaugurated on the Sea of Oman last week cuts travel time by five days, sharply reducing transportation expenses, its head says.
The $2 billion Jask terminal officially became operational by loading 300,000 barrels on an oil tanker last Thursday, with President Hassan Rouhani hailing it a ‘historic day’ when Iran could rid of reliance on the single Kharg terminal.
‘Considering the cost of fuel and leasing of a 2 million barrel tanker for a 5-day journey, using the Jask oil terminal reduces expenses by at least $300,000 in total,’ Reza Dehkordi told IRNA news agency on Wednesday.
‘This creates a competitive advantage and gives the buyer access to faster and less expensive cargo in terms of lower fuel, ship rental, premium and port costs, etc. which is in the interest of Iranian oil buyers in general,’ he added.
This reduction in costs is even greater when the tanker is leased for a single shipment, with rentals reaching $70,000 per day.
The opening of the Jask terminal marked the first ever export operations from the Sea of Oman in the over 110 year history of Iran’s oil, because all shipments were carried out from the Persian Gulf.
Iran’s President Rouhani hailed the launch of Jask oil terminal as a historic achievement for the nation.
Iran relies on Kharg Island for more than 90 per cent of its crude shipments and on smaller terminals of Lavan, Sirri and Soroush, while its condensate exports are handled by the Assaluyeh terminal, all of which are located in the Persian Gulf.
Kharg, once the world’s largest offshore crude oil terminal, is geographically the best location for Iran’s oil exports, but its facilities are in need of a major overhaul, having been put into commission first in the 1950s.
‘The need for the Jask oil terminal as back-up to Kharg Island had always been felt,’ Dehkordi said. ‘We can now export Iranian oil at the lowest cost and safest conditions through Jask in the Sea of Oman.’
Kharg Island, which lies about 180 kilometres southeast of Iraq and 50km from the Iranian mainland, was the main target of Iraqi aerial bombings during the 1980s war of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Iran.
Saddam’s initiation of the ‘tanker war’ also provided a pretext for the US to deploy warships to the Persian Gulf in 1995 and base its fifth naval fleet in Bahrain across from the Iranian coast.
The US military presence is a constant cause of insecurity in the strategic waters, where Iranian patrol boats and American warships have squared up several times, threatening shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for a fifth of the world’s oil or about 18 million barrels per day.
The new route allows Iran to bypass the Strait of Hormuz, lending Iran a major geopolitical privilege. According to Dehkordi, the geopolitical significance of the terminal is in bringing Iranian oil closer to the market.
‘For oil exports, we seek to attract our customers and be able to create a showcase where all countries could choose Iran as the first and most desirable country to buy oil,’ he said.
‘To achieve this goal, we have to take big steps to reduce customer costs, and by building this terminal, we have made huge cuts in ship fuel consumption and rental expenses.’
A 1,000km, 42-inch pipeline carries heavy and medium crude oil from Goureh in the Bushehr province to Jask in the Hormozgan province. The current capacity of the pipeline is 300,000 bpd and will be completed to reach 1 million bpd, Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zanganeh said last week.
Dehkordi said, ‘Due to its location in a strategic region in the Middle East, Iran has always been a transit route for energy and oil in the world, and if we want to produce power, we must turn potential geopolitical capacities into actual capacities.’
‘It can be said that against Jask in Iran, the port of Fujairah has a strategic role because of being uniquely located near the Strait of Hormuz,’ he said of the UAE emirate.
Fujairah, once a sleepy fishing village, has transformed itself into one of the world’s top tanker refuelling and oil storage hubs. It is currently the world’s second-largest bunkering port after Singapore.
Dehkordi said Jask could play a major role in the bunkering industry, as well as in ship logistics and repair and other services.
It could also significantly help increase Iran’s oil storage by constructing 20 strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs), each with a capacity to store 500,000 barrels, he said.
Officials see establishing strategic reserves as a buffer against the impact of sanctions.
In January, an Iranian company said it had undertaken to build strategic reserves for 30 million barrels of oil on the Qeshm island in the Persian Gulf, where an export terminal is also being set up along with bunkering facilities.
Iran has decided to build strategic reserves for 30 million barrels of oil as buffer against the impact of sanctions, the CEO of the Iranian company in charge of the project says.
‘The development and increase of oil and gas condensate transmission lines to Jask in the future can improve the position of this terminal, where it can simultaneously export oil and gas condensate and become the most thriving export hub in the region,’ Dehkordi said.
‘However, with the launch and prosperity of Jask, Kharg terminal will not lose its special position over time and it will always be the most important Iranian oil export terminal because the two terminals have major geographical differences,’ he added.