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In First Talks, Dueling Accusations Set Testy Tone for U.S.-China Diplomacy

U.S. officials said the two days of discussions would continue, but accused the Chinese delegation of violating the format for meetings that had sought to find common ground between the superpowers.ANCHORAGE — Even before the Biden administration’s first face-to-face meeting with senior Chinese diplomats on Thursday, American officials predicted the discussions would not go well. They were right: The traditional few minutes of opening greetings and remarks dissolved into more than an hour of very public verbal jousting, confirming the expected confrontational tone between the geopolitical rivals.U.S. officials said the two days of talks would continue, but immediately accused the Chinese delegation of violating the format for the sensitive discussions that had sought to find some common ground amid the many conflict points between them.Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, accused the United States of taking a “condescending” approach to the talks and said the American delegation had no right to accuse Beijing of human rights abuses or give lectures on the merits of democracy.At one point, he said the United States would do well to repair its own “deep seated” problems, specifically pointing to the Black Lives Matter movement against American racism. At another, after it looked as if the opening remarks had concluded and journalists were initially told to leave the room to let the deeper discussions begin, Mr. Yang accused the United States of being inconsistent in its championing of a free press.“I don’t think the overwhelming majority of countries in the world would recognize the universal values advocated by the United States, or that the opinions of the United States could represent international public opinion,” Mr. Yang said through an interpreter. “And those countries would not recognize that the rules made by a small number of people would serve as the basis for the international order.”Mr. Yang accused the United States of taking a “condescending” approach to the talks.Pool photo by Frederic J. BrownSecretary of State Antony J. Blinken initially appeared surprised but adopted a more resolute tone. He had opened the talks by asserting that the Biden administration’s diplomacy intended “to advance the interests of the United States, and to strengthen the rules based international order.”“The alternative to a rules based order is a world in which might makes right and winners take all,” Mr. Blinken said. “And that would be a far more violent and unstable world for all of us.”But after Mr. Yang’s lengthy comments — which American officials called a violation of an agreement that had limited the opening remarks to two minutes — Mr. Blinken motioned for the dozen or so journalists to remain for his response.In an implicit contrast with China, Mr. Blinken said the United States had a long history of openly confronting its shortcomings, “not trying to ignore them, not trying to pretend they don’t exist, trying to sweep them under the rug.” And he recalled a meeting from more than a decade ago between Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Xi Jinping when both men, who now lead their respective countries, were vice presidents.“It’s never a good bet, to bet against America,” Mr. Biden had said then, according to Mr. Blinken, who added, “That remains true today.”As journalists were again asked to leave after the American response, Mr. Yang turned directly to the TV cameras and said, in English, “Wait.” He then launched into another long critique of U.S. policy.Several times over the course of an hour, Beijing’s diplomats criticized new economic sanctions that were issued against 24 Chinese officials on the eve of the talks. “This is not supposed to be the way one should welcome his guests,” said the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi.The sanctions punished Chinese officials whom the Biden administration said had undermined democracy in Hong Kong by rewriting the territory’s election laws and pushing the changes through its pliant Communist Party-controlled legislature. Biden administration officials had earlier said the sanctions were not deliberately timed to affect the talks in Anchorage.The Anchorage hotel where the talks were held. They were expected to resume on Friday.Pool photo by Frederic J. BrownBut they clearly offended the Chinese diplomats, who seized on them as proof that the diplomatic overture was intended not to set ground rules for a bilateral understanding of each capital’s priorities, but to give the United States a home-turf platform for embarrassing Beijing.The tit-for-tat, which a senior U.S. official described as “grandstanding” by the Chinese for their domestic audience, left little doubt that not much would be achieved from the diplomatic discussions. However, the official said later, the discussion cooled down after journalists left the room, and yielded a substantive conversation that lasted far longer than initially planned.After an often-conflicting strategy for dealing with China over the past four years — which pit President Donald J. Trump’s desire for a trade deal against punishing Beijing for its rampant abuses of minority Uyghurs, military aggressions in regional waters and refusal to immediately address the coronavirus outbreak — the Biden administration has sought to take a new approach.The new policy toward China is one based largely on competition — economic and diplomatic — but it is also prepared to alternately cooperate or confront Beijing when necessary. The talks in Anchorage were meant to set a baseline for that approach.It is now unclear how much cooperation between the two nations will be possible, although that will be necessary to achieve a host of shared goals, including limiting Iran’s nuclear program and North Korea’s weapons systems.Senior Biden administration officials had earlier joked that hopes of making much progress in the talks were so low that it would be more efficient for both sides to simply fax over their respective talking points.

North Korea Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Malaysia Over U.S. Extradition

The extradition is part of Washington’s efforts to crack down on what it has called widespread sanctions-evading activities by North Korean businessmen and diplomats around the world.SEOUL — North Korea on Friday severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia after that country’s highest court agreed to extradite a North Korean man accused of money laundering to the United States, a major coup in Washington’s efforts to choke Pyongyang’s illicit trade.In a ruling last week, Malaysia’s federal court approved the extradition of a North Korean citizen, Mun Chol-myong, rejecting his argument that the case against him was politically motivated and that he was caught in the cross hairs of diplomatic enmity between North Korea and Washington.Washington has sought to bring Mr. Mun to the United States to face criminal charges that he laundered money through front companies and violated international sanctions by helping to ship prohibited luxury goods from Singapore to North Korea on behalf of the regime in Pyongyang. Mr. Mun was arrested in 2019 in Malaysia, where he had moved from Singapore in 2008.Mr. Mun was the first North Korean extradited to the United States to face a criminal trial. His extradition is part of Washington’s efforts to crack down on what it has described as widespread sanctions-evading activities by North Korean businessmen and diplomats. Over the years, the United Nations Security Council has imposed a series of increasingly stringent sanctions on North Korea, seeking to strangle the country’s access to foreign currency, which it has used to help finance its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.On Friday, North Korea identified the United States as “the backstage manipulator and main culprit” behind Mr. Mun’s extradition, warning that Washington will have to “pay a due price.” It did not elaborate, but its announcement came a day after North Korea said it would not respond to any attempt by the new Biden administration to establish a channel of communication that could be used to negotiate an end to Pyongyang’s growing nuclear weapons program.Negotiations fell apart after meetings between the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and former President Donald J. Trump ended abruptly in 2019.“It is a nefarious act and unpardonably heavy crime,” North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by its official Korean Central News Agency on Friday, accusing Malaysia of offering Mr. Mun “as a sacrifice of the U.S. hostile policy.” The “total severance of the diplomatic relations with Malaysia” would go into effect immediately. Relations between North Korea and Malaysia were already frosty after Mr. Kim’s estranged half brother, Kim Jong-nam, was assassinated at a Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. Two women hired by agents from Pyongyang smeared his face with the internationally banned VX nerve agent. North Korea denied involvement.Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader, was assassinated at an airport in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, in 2017. Toshifumi Kitamura/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesAfter the incident, the two countries expelled ambassadors from their capitals.North Korea’s severance of ties with Malaysia will deepen its diplomatic isolation. After the North conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in 2017, in defiance of United Nations resolutions, several countries, including Mexico, Spain and Kuwait, expelled North Korean ambassadors.North Korean diplomats have also deserted their overseas postings in recent years.Thae Yong-ho, a minister in the North Korean Embassy in London, defected to Seoul in 2016 with his wife and two sons. Jo Song-gil, a senior North Korean diplomat who disappeared from Italy in late 2018, also ended up in Seoul, according to South Korean lawmakers briefed on the matter. Ryu Kyeon-woo, a senior North Korean diplomat who fled his posting in Kuwait in 2019, has turned up in South Korea, too.Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III met with their South Korean counterparts in Seoul on Thursday. Afterward, the two allies said they would coordinate their approaches toward North Korea as the Biden administration finalizes its policy review in the next few weeks. Washington said it has tried to establish a diplomatic channel since last month, but that North Korea has not responded.Choe Son-hui, first vice foreign minister of North Korea, said on Thursday that North Korea felt no need to respond to “the U.S. delaying-time trick,” and that dialogue would only be possible after the United States ended its “hostile policy.”During his hearing in Malaysia, Mr. Mun, who is in his 50s, denied money laundering or issuing fraudulent documents to support illicit shipments to his home country. His lawyer called him “a pawn caught in the rivalry between the U.S. and North Korea.”Malaysia’s High Court, in Kuala Lumpur.Sadiq Asyraf/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Homelessness in U.S. Rose for 4th Straight Year, Report Says

A new report almost certainly underestimates the spread, depth and urgency of the crisis given that the data doesn’t yet reflect the pandemic, federal officials warned.WASHINGTON — Homelessness in the United States rose for the fourth straight year, with about 580,000 people living on the streets or in temporary shelter at the start of 2020, according to an annual nationwide survey that was completed before the pandemic.But the report, which was released on Thursday, almost certainly underestimates the spread, depth and urgency of the crisis, and not by a little, federal officials warned.The report showed a 2.2 percent increase in homelessness from the previous year, but that does not reflect the displacement of people who lost work as a result of the sharp downturn caused by the coronavirus.“I can’t give you numbers on how much homelessness has increased during the pandemic, but we know it has increased,” Marcia L. Fudge, who was confirmed last week as President Biden’s secretary of housing and urban development, said during a briefing at the White House.She called the situation “devastating,” and said the country had a “moral responsibility” to address both long-term homelessness and hardships spurred by the coronavirus.HUD officials say the effect on homelessness might not be known for years. Nationwide moratoriums on evictions, which have been in place since last spring and are scheduled to expire this year, have slowed the pace of displacement, although a Government Accountability Office report released this week showed the programs were not universally effective.Ms. Fudge, a former Democratic congresswoman from Ohio, set an ambitious goal during her briefing: to reduce the number of homeless people by 130,000 using additional resources provided to her department under Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.The package includes $21.55 billion for emergency rental assistance, $5 billion in emergency housing vouchers for families displaced by the pandemic’s economic fallout, $5 billion for homelessness assistance and $850 million for tribal and rural housing.But Ms. Fudge, known for her outspoken views on race and poverty, said that funding, while welcome, was a fraction of what was needed to address the crisis once and for all.Asked how much was needed, she replied, “$70 to $100 billion” — roughly double the department’s annual budget for all its programs.She did not mince words when asked about the state of her agency, which suffered an exodus under her predecessor, Ben Carson.“We are thousands of people short of where we ought to be,” said Ms. Fudge, who described the department’s remaining career employees as “under-resourced, understaffed and overworked.”Even before the pandemic, homelessness was re-emerging as a major national problem, especially in big cities. The country’s two biggest cities, New York and Los Angeles, account for a quarter of all homeless people counted in the 2020 survey.The annual snapshot count, taken on a single night in January 2020, signaled worrying trends: For the first time in years, homelessness among veterans and families — two groups targeted by recent federal housing efforts — did not improve..css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus PackageThe stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more. Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read moreThis credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.Homelessness affects Black and Latino communities with disproportionate force. About 40 percent of people counted were Black, compared with their 13 percent representation in the population, and nearly a quarter of homeless people self-identified as Latino, a group that makes up about 18 percent of all Americans.The number of people living on the street, the most visible reminder of a crisis that also plays out in shelters and among “couch people” forced to move in with family or friends, is also rising.For the first time since the nationwide survey of homelessness was released in February 2007, the number of single adults living on the street, 209,000, was greater than the number of people counted in shelters, which was around 199,500.One out of every six homeless people, about 106,000, were under the age of 18. A majority live in shelters. But 11,000 live at least part of the time outside, without shelter, the report found.Despite federal and state efforts to halt evictions, advocacy groups have reported an increase in the number of families facing eviction and foreclosure, or economic insecurity dire enough to endanger their housing.Nearly two-thirds of 280 renters and homeowners interviewed last month in the South Ward neighborhood of Newark reported not being able to pay their rent or mortgage in full, and on time, between August and September 2020.The survey, conducted by Child Trends, a research organization based in Bethesda, Md., that analyzes national and local data on child well-being, reported that 27 percent of the people interviewed had to move at least once during the pandemic.“The majority of renters in the South Ward were not able to pay their rent or mortgage on time, and we anticipate that situation, especially among Black families, worsened during the pandemic,” said Sara Shaw, a research scientist with the group who worked on the report.