May 19, 2018

China lands nuclear-capable bombers in the South China Sea

A PLA Navy fleet in the South China Sea. Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

China's air force announced in a statement on Saturday that it conducted take-off and landing training for nuclear-strike capable bombers on unidentified islands in the South China Sea, per The Guardian.

Why it matters: The South China Sea — and who exactly controls it — is one of the most hotly contested issues between the United States and China, and the U.S. has threatened consequences for increased activity in the area.

  • The U.S. response: Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement: "China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilize the region.”

The big picture: A third of world trade passes through the area — and billions of barrels of oil are beneath the seabed. China's claim, which lies within a boundary it calls the "nine-dash line," includes about 80 percent of the South China Sea. An international tribunal has rejected the scope of that claim, but its ruling is unenforceable and China ignores it.

Other tensions in the South China Sea:

Another issue: Similarly, China and Japan both lay claim to islands they believe essential to their security interests in the East China Sea.

  • This month, Beijing and Tokyo established a military hotline this month to ensure a close working relationship as tensions surrounding U.S. trade and foreign policy grew.

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House warned of Russian effort to re-elect Trump

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump meet at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, last June. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

The nation's top election-security official warned the House Intelligence Committee last week that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help President Trump get re-elected, continuing to attempt to sow discord among the American electorate, the AP reports.

Why it matters: The warning raises questions about the integrity of the presidential campaign and whether Trump's administration is taking the proper steps to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. saw in 2016.

U.S. and Taliban announce first step in Afghanistan peace process

Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

The State Department confirmed Friday morning the U.S. and Taliban have "reached an understanding" that starts a 7-day "reduction of violence" to be followed by a signed U.S.-Taliban agreement.

Why it matters: The Afghanistan war is the longest war in U.S. history. President Trump has previously pulled out of talks at the last minute, only to restart them.

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Bloomberg's debate backfire could boost Bernie

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg got into the 2020 race to stop Bernie Sanders and socialism. If he doesn't bounce back from this week's debate, he may seal the deal for both.

Why it matters: Bloomberg’s own campaign has warned that Sanders could lock up the nomination in mere weeks, thanks to rivals spitting the opposition vote. But Bloomberg’s own spending makes it harder for other rivals to cut through — and virtually assures he sucks up significant delegates.