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Biden Warns Beijing Over Expansionism

WASHINGTON, Jan 28: One week into the job, US President Joe Biden has sent a clear warning to Beijing against any expansionist intentions in East and Southeast Asia.

In multiple calls and statements, he and his top security officials have underscored support for allies Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, signalling Washington's rejection of China's disputed territorial claims in those areas.

On Wednesday, Biden told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that his administration is committed to defending Japan, including the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed both by Japan and China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands.

That stance was echoed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who told Japanese counterpart Nobuo Kishi on Saturday that the contested islands were covered by the US-Japan Security Treaty.

Austin affirmed that the United States "remains opposed to any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea," according to a Pentagon statement on the call.

Meanwhile, three days into the Biden administration, State Department spokesman Ned Price warned China about menacing Taiwan after it repeatedly sent more than a dozen military fighters and bombers through the island's air defense zone.

"We will stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity security and values in the Indo-Pacific region -- and that includes deepening our ties with Democratic Taiwan," Price said in a statement.

"Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid."

Those comments and others sought to emphasize that the new Biden administration will not deviate from the firm security stance towards China that it inherited from ex-president Donald Trump.

Washington has long sided with allies such as South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in rejecting disputed Chinese territorial claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

But the Trump administration raised the tone of that rejection when then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo declared last July that most of Beijing's maritime claims in the South China Sea were "completely unlawful."

In his first overseas contacts after taking office, Austin included not only Japan but also counterparts in Australia, South Korea and India.

Over the past three years, Washington has expanded defense cooperation with India, which sees China posing a military threat both on its northern border and in the seas to the south.

In a call with Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday, Austin observed that the two countries' defense partnership "is built upon shared values and a common interest in ensuring the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

A similar China-directed refrain echoed through Austin's call with Australian defense minister Linda Reynolds on Tuesday.

Austin "emphasized the importance of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, founded on existing international law and norms in a region free of malign behavior," Kirby said.

To underscore the unchanged US stance in Asia, on January 24, the fourth day of the new Biden administration, the US aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt embarked on a so-called "freedom of navigation" mission in the South China Sea, sailing in or close to waters that China claims to underscore Washington's rejection of those claims.

In addition, even as his initial focus for the US Defense Department is battling the coronavirus, Austin is expected to make Asia his first destination on an international trip.

Biden, Putin discuss START, Navalny, Ukraine

WASHINGTON, Jan 27: Russia and the United States have struck a deal to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, a move that preserves the last major pact of its kind between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.

The White House did not immediately confirm the Kremlin’s announcement but said President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the issue by telephone and agreed that their teams work urgently to complete the extension by February 5, when the treaty expires.

Signed in 2010, the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a cornerstone of global arms control. It limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and Russia to 1,550 each as well as the number of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers that deliver them.

The Kremlin declared the breakthrough, which was widely anticipated, in a statement announcing that Putin and Biden had spoken for the first time since Biden took office on January 20.

Moscow and Washington had failed to agree an extension under former US President Donald Trump, whose administration had wanted to attach conditions to a renewal that Moscow rejected.

The Kremlin said Putin and Biden “expressed satisfaction” that diplomatic notes between the two nations had been exchanged earlier on Tuesday confirming the pact would be extended and that procedures required for the pact to come into force before it expires would be completed in the coming days.

The White House, in its description of the call, did not say that an agreement had been reached or that diplomatic notes had been exchanged, though its tone was upbeat.

“They discussed both countries’ willingness to extend New START for five years, agreeing to have their teams work urgently to complete the extension by February 5,” the White House said. “They also agreed to explore strategic stability discussions on a range of arms control and emerging security issues.”

A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the plan was for the exchange of notes to occur on Tuesday.

Asked why Washington had not explicitly said an agreement had been reached, a second U.S. official, also on condition of anonymity, said some steps were needed, including approval by the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament. The treaty itself does not require legislative approval for an extension.

The White House said last week Biden would seek a five-year extension.

In its statement, the Kremlin said that Putin had told Biden a normalisation of relations between Moscow and Washington would be in both countries’ interest. It said the two leaders had also discussed the US decision during Trump’s administration to exit the Open Skies treaty.

Putin and Biden also talked about Iran’s nuclear programme and the conflict in Ukraine.

The White House stressed that it will raise matters where it disagrees with Russia, and said Biden had reaffirmed the United States’ “firm support for Ukraine’s sovereignty”.

Biden had raised “other matters of concern” including the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, the cyber hack blamed on Russia that used US tech company SolarWinds Corp as a springboard to penetrate federal government networks, and reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan.

“President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies,” the White House statement said.

US Senate confirms Antony Blinken as 71st secretary of state

WASHINGTON, Jan 26: The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as America’s top diplomat, tasked with carrying out President Joe Biden’s commitment to reverse the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine that weakened international alliances.

Senators voted 78-22 to approve Blinken, a longtime Biden confidant, as the nation’s 71st secretary of state, succeeding Mike Pompeo. The position is the most senior Cabinet position, with the secretary fourth in the line of presidential succession.

Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He has pledged to be a leading force in the administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.

Shortly after his confirmation, Blinken took the oath of office at a private ceremony at the State Department. Blinken was sworn in by the director general of the U.S. Foreign Service in the Treaty Room on the department's 7th floor outside the corridor known as “Mahogany Row" where his new office will be. He is expected to start work Wednesday.

“American leadership still matters,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his January 19 confirmation hearing. “The reality is, the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos.”

Blinken vowed that the Biden administration would approach the world with both humility and confidence, saying “we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.”

Despite promising renewed American leadership and an emphasis on shoring up strained ties with allies in Europe and Asia, Blinken told lawmakers that he agreed with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. He backed the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a tough stance on China over human rights and its assertiveness in the South China Sea.

He did, however, signal that the Biden administration is interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018.

Trump's secretaries of state nominees met with significant opposition from Democrats. Trump’s first nominee for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was approved by a 56 to 43 vote and served only 13 months before Trump fired him in tweet. His successor, Pompeo, was confirmed in a 57-42 vote.

Opposition to Blinken centered on Iran policy and concerns among conservatives that he will abandon Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

Blinken inherits a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo offered strong resistance to the Trump administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention.

Although the department escaped proposed cuts of more than 30% of its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, Many diplomats opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancement under an administration that they believed didn't value their expertise.

A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.

Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now serving as special envoy for climate change.

Biden U.N. nominee pledges to work 'aggressively' against Chinese influence

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Jan 27: U.S. President Joe Biden's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations stressed on Wednesday the importance of U.S. re-engagement with the 193-member world body in order to challenge efforts by China to "drive an authoritarian agenda."

Beijing has been pushing for greater global influence in a challenge to traditional U.S. leadership. Tension between the two superpowers hit a boiling point at the United Nations last year over the coronavirus pandemic.

At her U.S. Senate confirmation hearing, veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield pledged to work "aggressively against Chinese malign efforts in New York."

"We know China is working across the U.N. system to drive an authoritarian agenda that stands in opposition to the founding values of the institution - American values," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"Their success depends on our continued withdrawal," she said, alluding to former president Donald Trump's administration, which spurned and pulled back from multilateral institutions. "That will not happen on my watch," she said.

Thomas-Greenfield looked likely to be confirmed by the Senate within days after both Democratic and Republican senators praised the 35-year Foreign Service veteran who has served on four continents, most notably in Africa.

Several senators asked her about a 2019 speech that they considered favorable to Beijing. "I am not at all naive at what the Chinese are doing," she said. "I have called them out on a regular basis."

Thomas-Greenfield said the State Department is reviewing a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide by repressing Uighur Muslims to make sure it sticks because "all of the procedures were not followed."

China has been widely condemned for its complexes in the remote Xinjiang region, which it describes as "vocational training centers" to stamp out extremism. It denies accusations of abuse.

"What is happening with the Uighurs is horrendous and we have to recognize it for what it is," Thomas-Greenfield said.

Thomas-Greenfield, who was a U.S. diplomat in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, has previously spoken about facing a "glazed-eyed young man" who had mistaken her for a woman he had been sent to kill.

"So I know what it looks like. And I know what it feels like. And this feels like that. And we have to recognize it for what it is," she said on Wednesday of the situation in Xinjiang.

If confirmed, she will join counterparts with decades of experience in diplomacy from Britain, France, China and Russia which, along with the United States, make up the U.N. Security Council's five permanent veto-wielding members.

She said the United States broadly has to re-engage with its allies and adversaries and criticized the Trump administration for trying to "go it alone," particularly on its failed efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

"Re-engaging with South Korea, with Japan, as well as with China and Russia - particularly to push for their respect of the sanctions regime against North Korea - is going to be really important," she said.

She said Washington needed to pay its dues to the world body "so that we can continue to exert our influence." The United States, which is the largest U.N. contributor, is currently in arrears about $600 million for the regular budget and about $2 billion for the peacekeeping budget.

US aircraft carrier group enters South China Sea amid Taiwan tensions

WASHINGTON, Jan 24: A US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt has entered the South China Sea to promote "freedom of the seas", the US military said on Sunday, at a time when tensions between China and Taiwan have raised concern in Washington.

US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement the strike group entered the South China Sea on Saturday, the same day Taiwan reported a large incursion of Chinese bombers and fighter jets into its air defence identification zone in the vicinity of the Pratas Islands.

The US military said the carrier strike group was in the South China Sea, a large part of which is claimed by China, to conduct routine operations "to ensure freedom of the seas, build partnerships that foster maritime security".

"After sailing through these waters throughout my 30-year career, it's great to be in the South China Sea again, conducting routine operations, promoting freedom of the seas, and reassuring allies and partners," Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of the strike group, was quoted as saying.

"With two-thirds of the world's trade travelling through this very important region, it is vital that we maintain our presence and continue to promote the rules-based order which has allowed us all to prosper," Verissimo said in the statement.

The announcement comes just days after Joe Biden was sworn in as US president.

Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday there was "no doubt" China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any nation.

China has repeatedly complained about US Navy ships getting close to Chinese-occupied islands in the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan all have competing claims.

The Theodore Roosevelt is being accompanied by the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Russell and USS John Finn, the US statement said.

In Senate deal, Trump impeachment trial put off until early February

WASHINTON, Jan 23: The leaders of the U.S. Senate agreed on Friday to push back former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial by two weeks, giving the chamber more time to focus on President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda and Cabinet nominees before turning to the contentious showdown over Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said the trial is set to begin during the week of Monday Feb. 8, an arrangement praised by the chamber’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell.

The House of Representatives is due to formally deliver to the Senate on Monday the impeachment charge accusing Trump of inciting an insurrection, a move that ordinarily would have triggered the beginning of the trial within a day. The charge stems from Trump’s incendiary speech to supporters before they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a rampage that delayed the formal congressional certification of Biden’s election victory and left five people dead, including a police officer.

Schumer said the new timeline will allow the Senate to move quickly on key Biden appointees and other tasks while giving House lawmakers who will prosecute the case and Trump’s team more time to prepare for the trial.

“During that period, the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as Cabinet nominations and the COVID relief bill which would provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering during this pandemic,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

The timeline was a compromise after McConnell had asked the Democratic-led House to delay sending the charge until next Thursday, and called on Schumer to postpone the trial until mid-February to give Trump more time to prepare a defense.

Doug Andres, a spokesman for McConnell, said the senator was pleased Democrats had given Trump’s defense more time, and laid out a timeline that could have the trial begin as soon as Feb. 9.

“This is a win for due process and fairness,” Andres said.

Under the timeline, House impeachment managers will file their pre-trial brief and Trump’s defense team will file an answer to the impeachment charge on Feb. 2, and each side will respond to those filings on Feb. 8.

Trump on Jan. 13 became the first U.S. president to have been impeached twice. The Senate acquitted him last year in the previous trial focused on Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate Biden and his son. Trump’s presidential term ended on Wednesday.

Conviction in the Senate would require a two-thirds vote – meaning 17 of Trump’s fellow Republicans would have to vote against him. A conviction would clear the way for a second vote, requiring a simply majority, to bar Trump from holding office again.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday found a slim majority of Americans believe Trump should be convicted and barred from holding public office. The responses were almost entirely along party lines, with nine out of 10 Democrats wanting Trump convicted and less than two in 10 Republicans agreeing.

Trump has said he may seek the presidency again in 2024. His fate could depend on McConnell, whose position is likely to influence other Republicans. McConnell said this week that the mob that attacked the Capitol was “fed lies” and “provoked by the president and other powerful people.”

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters earlier in the day that the Senate should be able to move forward with both the trial and Biden’s agenda, beginning with his call for $1.9 trillion of fresh COVID-19 assistance for Americans and the U.S. economy.

“What cannot be delayed through this process is his proposal to get relief to the American people at this time of crisis,” Psaki said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, said the agreement between Schumer and McConnell was “fair to all concerned.”

“It allows the president’s defense team adequate time to prepare and for the sake of the country, it moves the process forward,” Graham said.

Senate rules had called for an impeachment trial to begin at 1 p.m. on the day after the single article of impeachment was delivered to Senate, except for Sundays.

The deal came even as Schumer and McConnell struggled to assert control in a chamber divided 50-50, with Democrats holding a majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

McConnell has insisted that Democrats provide a guarantee that they will not end what is known as the legislative filibuster, which enables the minority Republicans to put up procedural hurdles for legislation sought by Biden.

Schumer rejected McConnell’s demand on Friday as “unacceptable.” Schumer became the chamber’s leader this week after Democrats won two Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections earlier in the month.

US 'applauds' India for gifting Covid-19 vaccine to several countries

WASHINGTON, Jan 22: The United States on Friday "applauded" India for gifting COVID-19 vaccines to several countries including the Maldives, Bhutan and Bangladesh, saying New Delhi is a "true friend" which is using its pharma industry to help the global community.

Taking to Twitter, the State SCA (the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in US State Department) said: "We applaud India's role in global health, sharing millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine in South Asia. India's free shipments of the vaccine began with Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal and will extend to others. India's a true friend using its pharma to help the global community."

In the last few days, India has supplied COVID-19 vaccines, being manufactured in the country, to neighbouring countries including Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stated that India's vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used for the benefit of all humanity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

On January 19, New Delhi announced its grant assistance of vaccines to the neighbouring countries. On January 20, 1.5 lakh doses of vaccines were supplied to Bhutan and one lakh doses to the Maldives as grant assistance.

On Thursday, New Delhi supplied 10 lakh doses to Nepal and 20 lakh doses to Bangladesh.

Large consignments of Covishield vaccine doses were flown in special Indian aircraft to Seychelles, Mauritius and Myanmar on Friday.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday said that the supplies of COVID-19 vaccine as grant assistance to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan will be undertaken after receiving confirmation of regulatory clearances from these two countries.

Contractual supplies are also being undertaken to Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil, Morocco, Bangladesh and Myanmar, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

India has already rolled out a massive coronavirus vaccination drive using two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin.

Covishield has been developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and is being manufactured by Serum Institute of India. Meanwhile, Covaxin is an indigenous vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Joe Biden, New US President, Vows To End 'Uncivil War'

WASHINGTON, Jan 20: Democrat Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday, vowing to end the 'uncivil war' in a deeply divided country reeling from a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.

With the US Capitol encircled by thousands of armed troops two weeks after a mob laid siege to it, Biden took the oath of office administered by US Chief Justice John Roberts and became the oldest US president in history at age 78.

"To overcome these challenges to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity," he said in his inauguration speech.

"We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this - if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts."

The scaled-back inauguration ceremony was stripped of much of its usual celebratory spirit. The National Mall, typically packed with throngs of supporters, instead was filled with U.S. flags in a reminder of the pandemic Biden will confront as chief executive.

Speaking on the steps of the Capitol, where supporters of then-President Donald Trump clashed with police in a chaotic assault that left five dead and stunned the world on Jan.6, Biden cast his ascension as proof that the attackers had failed to disrupt the underpinnings of American democracy.

The violence prompted the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to impeach Trump last week for an unprecedented second time, accusing him of incitement after he exhorted his backers to march on the building amid false claims of election fraud.

"Here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work on our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground," Biden said. "It did not happen; it will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever."

Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, became the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she was sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court's first Latina member.

The norm-defying Trump flouted one last convention on his way out of the White House when he refused to meet with Biden or attend his successor's inauguration, breaking with a political tradition seen as affirming the peaceful transfer of power.

Trump, who never conceded the Nov. 3 election, did not mention Biden by name in his final remarks as president on Wednesday morning, when he touted his administration's record and promised to be back "in some form." He then boarded Air Force One for the last time and flew to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida.

Top Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and the party's congressional leaders, attended Biden's inauguration, along with former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Biden takes office at a time of deep national unease, with the country facing what his advisers have described as four compounding crises: the pandemic, the economic downturn, climate change and racial inequality. He has promised immediate action, including a raft of executive orders on his first day in office.

After a bitter campaign marked by Trump's baseless allegations of election fraud, Biden struck a conciliatory tone rarely heard from his predecessor, asking Americans who did not vote for him to give him a chance.

"I pledge this to you: I will be a president for all Americans," he said. "And I promise you I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did."

Although his remarks were directed primarily at problems at home, Biden delivered what he called a message to those beyond America's borders, promising to repair alliances frayed by Trump, lead and be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security. He made no specific mention of high-stakes disputes with North Korea, Iran and China.

Biden's inauguration is the zenith of a five-decade career in public service that included more than three decades in the U.S. Senate and two terms as vice president under Obama.

But he faces calamities that would challenge even the most experienced politician.

The pandemic in the United States reached a pair of grim milestones on Trump's final full day in office on Tuesday, reaching 400,000 U.S. deaths and 24 million infections - the highest of any country. Millions of Americans are out of work because of pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions.

Biden has vowed to bring the full weight of the federal government to bear on the crisis. His top priority is a $1.9 trillion plan that would enhance jobless benefits and provide direct cash payments to households.

But it will require approval from a deeply divided Congress, where Democrats hold slim advantages in both the House and Senate. Harris was scheduled to swear in three new Democratic senators late on Wednesday, creating a 50-50 split in the chamber with herself as the tie-breaking vote.

Biden will waste little time trying to turn the page on the Trump era, advisers said, signing 15 executive actions on Wednesday on issues ranging from the pandemic to the economy to climate change.

The orders will include mandating masks on federal property, rejoining the Paris climate accord and ending Trump's travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries.

Although Biden has laid out a packed agenda for his first 100 days, including delivering 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations, the Senate could be consumed by Trump's upcoming impeachment trial, which will move ahead even though he has left office.

The trial could serve as an early test of Biden's promise to foster a renewed sense of bipartisanship in Washington.

Trump issued more than 140 pardons and commutations in his final hours in office, including a pardon for his former political adviser, Steve Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to charges that he swindled Trump supporters as part of an effort to raise private funds for a Mexico border wall.

But Trump did not issue preemptive pardons for himself or members of his family, after speculation that he might do so.

Kamala Harris Becomes First Woman Vice President Of US

WASHINGTON, Jan 20: Kamala Harris made history on Wednesday when she was sworn in as Joe Biden's vice president, becoming the first woman, the first Black American and the first Asian American to hold the second highest US office.

Looking ahead, Ms Harris, 56, is seen as an obvious contender for the Democratic Party's 2024 presidential nomination should Biden, 78, decide not to seek a second term. Ms Harris has yet to weigh in publicly on such speculation.

A US senator from California the past four years, Ms Harris has shattered many a glass ceiling. She served as San Francisco's first female district attorney and was California's first woman of colour to be elected attorney general.

Ms Harris has resigned her Senate seat, but she still will play a prominent role in the chamber.

The US vice president serves as Senate president, casting any tie-breaking votes in the 100-member chamber. With it split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, Ms Harris gives her party control of the Senate.

Her background in criminal justice could help the new Biden administration tackle the issues of racial equality and policing after the country was swept by protests last year.

She is expected to be a top adviser on judicial nominations.

Ms Harris is the daughter of immigrants, with her mother coming to the United States from India and her father from Jamaica.

She had her sights set on becoming the first woman US president when she competed against Joe Biden and others for their party's 2020 nomination.

Ms Harris dropped out of the race after a campaign hurt by her wavering views on healthcare and indecision about embracing her past as a prosecutor.

Mr Biden looked beyond some of the harsh words she had for him in that campaign to name her as his running mate last August.

She has proven to be a valuable and polished stand-in, appealing especially to women, liberals and voters of colour.

Ms Harris developed a deep fundraising network during her Senate and White House bids.

She was instrumental to Mr Biden's raking in record sums of money in the closing months of the campaign against Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

Her selection sparked a burst of excitement in the Democratic voter base and among the party's donors.

Accusations from liberals that Ms Harris did not do enough to investigate police shootings and wrongful conviction cases when she was California's attorney general helped doom her own presidential run but surfaced little during her time as Mr Biden's running mate.

Ms Harris defended her record, saying she had worked her whole career "to reform the criminal justice system with the understanding that it is deeply flawed and in need of repair." Prior to her selection, several Biden aides said Ms Harris was able to put to rest concerns among some in the former vice president's camp that she would be too personally ambitious to make a trustworthy partner.

"Joe and I were raised in a very similar way," Ms Harris said of Mr Biden at her October debate against then-Vice President Mike Pence.

"We were raised with values that are about hard work, about the value and the dignity of public service and about the importance of fighting for the dignity of all people."

Taiwan representative invited to Biden, Harris swearing-in ceremony

WASHINGTON, Jan 20: Head of Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim represented Taiwan at the inauguration of the 46th U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris January 20, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Hsiao attended the event staged at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington at the invitation of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, the MOFA said. The event was greatly scaled back due to the impact of COVID-19, the ministry added.

It was the first time the head of TECRO had received an invitation from the JCCIC to attend the most important democratic event in the U.S., the MOFA said, adding that it reflects the two sides’ friendship rooted in the shared values of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights.

Based on this solid foundation, the government will continue promoting cooperation and exchanges at all levels and across the board with the Biden administration to further enhance bilateral ties, the MOFA said.

In a tweet from her personal account, Hsiao said she is honored to represent the government and people of Taiwan at the event.

Democracy is the common language and freedom is the shared objective of the two like-minded partners, she said, adding that she looks forward to working with the new administration in advancing mutual interests and values.

Modi Tweets Congratulations to Biden

NEW DELHI, Jan 20: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today tweeted his congratulations to Joe Biden who just took oath as the 46th President of the United States. In a series of tweets, he said India will work with the United States to ensure global peace and security and take the partnership between the two nations to greater heights.

"My warmest congratulations to Joe Biden on his assumption of office as the President of United States of America. I look forward to working with him to strengthen India-US strategic partnership," his tweet read.

"My best wishes for a successful term in leading USA as we stand united and resilient in addressing common challenges and advancing global peace and security," a second tweet read.

The India-US partnership is based on "shared values", read a third post from Modi. "We have a substantial and multifaceted bilateral agenda, growing economic engagement and vibrant people to people linkages. Committed to working with President @JoeBiden to take the India-US partnership to even greater heights," he added.

 

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