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Donald Trump makes first blunder as US President

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Whether by accident or design, President-elect Donald Trump is signaling a tougher American policy toward China, sparking warnings from both the outgoing Obama administration and Beijing.

On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said progress with the Chinese could be “undermined” by a flare-up over the sovereignty of Taiwan, the self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979. That split was part of an agreement with China, which claims the island as its own territory, although the U.S. continues to sell Taiwan billions in military equipment and has other economic ties.

Trump broke protocol last week by speaking with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, then took to Twitter to challenge China’s trade and military policies.

“It’s unclear exactly what the strategic effort is,” Earnest said. “I’ll leave that to them to explain.”

So far, Trump’s advisers have struggled to explain his action, sending mixed messages about whether the conversation with Taiwan’s leader was a step toward a new policy or simply a congratulatory call. Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said Trump “knew exactly what was happening” when he spoke with Tsai, but Vice President-elect Mike Pence described the interaction as “nothing more than taking a courtesy call of congratulations.”

Trump has pledged to be more “unpredictable” on the world stage, billing the approach as a much-needed change from President Barack Obama’s deliberative style and public forecasting about U.S. policy. But Trump’s unpredictability is likely to unnerve both allies and adversaries, leaving glaring questions about whether the foreign policy novice is carrying out planned strategies or acting on impulse.

China’s authoritarian government likes predictability in its dealings with other nations, particularly the United States. The U.S. and China are the world’s two largest economies with bilateral trade in goods and services reaching nearly $660 billion last year.

While there have been sharp differences between Beijing and Washington on China’s island building in the South China Sea and over alleged Chinese cybertheft of U.S. commercial secrets, the two powers have cooperated effectively on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.

Taiwan split from the Chinese mainland in 1949. American policy acknowledges the Chinese view that it has sovereignty over Taiwan, yet the U.S. considers Taiwan’s status as unsettled. The U.S. is Taiwan’s main source of weapons, with $14 billion in approved arms sales since 2009.

U.S. diplomats were shocked by Trump’s telephone call with the Taiwanese leader. Several officials privately expressed deep unease that Trump’s team did not inform the administration in advance or give it a chance to provide input.

Max Baucus, the U.S. ambassador to China, spoke about the matter Saturday with China’s vice foreign minister to reiterate America’s one-China policy on behalf of the current administration.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Monday that China would have “no comment on what motivated the Trump team” to make the tweets, and he said he believed both sides would continue to support a “sound and a stable bilateral relationship.”

But a commentary on the state-run Xinhua news agency issued a veiled warning.

“Succeeding a mostly upward U.S.-China relationship, Trump also needs to resist the light-headed calls for provocative and damaging moves on China by some hawkish political elites,” said the commentary by Luo Jun. “The outdated zero-sum mindset is poisonous for Washington’s foreign relations. It would be a mistake to think that Washington could gain from undercutting Beijing’s core interests.”

Stephen Yates, a former national security aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who has been in touch with Trump advisers, said the call with Tsai was arranged by the transition team and showed the president-elect wants to rebalance the U.S. relationship with China.

“He is not going to be told who he can or cannot talk to,” Yates said by email as he flew to Taiwan for a trip he said was planned before the election. “He meant what he said about being open to leaders who seek good relations with the U.S. He knows more about these subjects than he might let on.”

As a presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly accused China of manipulating its currency and trying to “rape our country” with unfair trade policies.

Walter Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Center at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Trump appears to be signaling a willingness to increase ties with Taiwan, but not necessarily a full overhaul of U.S. policy.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to poke the Chinese in the eye; it doesn’t mean we’re going to change the ‘One China policy,’” said Lohman, whose think tank has been advising Trump’s transition. “But it does mean we will reform our Taiwan policy to reflect reality.”

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Army withholds salaries of 45 soldiers in Borno

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Authorities of the 7 Division Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, have withheld the salaries of 45 soldiers, according to sources.

The soldiers, who were among the 149 troops of the 153 Task Force Battalion withdrawn from Marte, Borno State, after spending three years in counterinsurgency operations, were accused of for abandoning their duty posts.

The battalion came under attack on three occasions during which several soldiers were killed while a range of weapons, equipment and vehicles were either carted away or destroyed.

The battalion was overhauled after the last attack in February.

A source said necessary changes were made and troops who served with the battalion were moved to different formations in Maiduguri before a new deployment was made.

“Some of the soldiers who were not seen at their new units were believed to have gone on AWOL (Absence Without Leave). Their salaries accounts were not credited in April,” he said.

But one of the affected soldiers said the allegation of desertion against them was untrue.

“We were not given our salaries and when we asked our supervisors in the 7 Division, we were shocked to hear that we had forfeited all our entitlements over desertion.”

Attempts to get the response of army authorities were not successful.

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EFCC goes after top officials of PDP over N10bn scandal

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The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) has invited officials of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for questioning over alleged criminal conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of funds and fraud.

This is coming barely a month after a chieftain in the PDP, Kazeem Afegbua, petitioned the anti-graft agency to scrutinise the Secondus-led National Working Committee on financial misappropriation.

In the letter of invitation dated May 17, 2021, and addressed to the Prince Uche Secondus, the EFCC said the need to obtain certain clarification from the party has become imperative.

The agency, however, requested the party’s National chairman to release the National Auditor, National Organising Secretary and Director of Finance to report at the EFCC headquarters from May 19th to 21st 2021.

The agency also requested the national officers to honor the invitation with relevant documents relating to sole of forms into the party’s elective positions from January 2017 to date.

Kazeem had in his petition alleged that much of the financial transactions of the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus has been shrouded in mystery, accusing the leadership of deliberate attempt to shortchange the party in the build up to the 2023 general elections.

However, Secondus had since denied the allegation and filed a N1 billion suit against the petitioner, Kazeem Afegbua.

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Nigeria’s drug control agency approves new COVID-19 vaccine

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The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has granted approval for the conditional emergency use of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is the third vaccine recommended for administration in the country.

The director-general of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojiola Adeyeye, in a statement on Tuesday, said information on the vaccine shows it met the criteria for efficacy, safety and quality.

She said, “The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is administered as a single dose. Results from a clinical trial involving people in the United States, South Africa and Latin American countries found that Janssen COVID-19 vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19 in people from 18 years of age.

“The Phase III clinical trial involved over 44,000 people. Half received a single dose of the vaccine and half were given placebo (a dummy injection). People did not know if they had been given Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine or placebo.

According to her, the trial showed a 67 per cent reduction in the number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases after two weeks in people who received Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.

The most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 days.

On the vaccine safety, Adeyeye said NAFDAC, in line with its pharmacovigilance and safety monitoring plan for COVID-19 vaccines, will closely monitor and subject the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to several activities that apply specifically to COVID-19 vaccines.

The AstraZeneca vaccine which Nigeria has been giving out has garnered many sceptics internationally after some recipients of the vaccine died.

At least 16 countries including Germany, France and Sweden have suspended the use of AstraZeneca, which put on the Nigerian government to suspend it.

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