Trump vows response to China tariffs on $75B of US goods

By JOE McDONALD, PAUL WISEMAN and JILL COLVIN AP Business Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump declared Friday that he had “hereby ordered” American companies with operations in China “to immediately start looking for” an alternative after Beijing announced a series of retaliatory tariffs.
But as markets in the U.S., Asia and Europe tumbled, the White House offered no further details or explanation of Trump’s intentions.
Instead, the president tweeted that he would be “responding to China’s Tariffs this afternoon.”
“This is a GREAT opportunity for the United States” he wrote.
The U.S. has said it plans to impose 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods in two steps, on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15. China responded Friday with new tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. products in retaliation, deepening a conflict over trade and technology that threatens to tip a weakening global economy into recession.
China also will increase import duties on U.S.-made autos and auto parts, the Finance Ministry announced. Tariffs of 10% and 5% will take effect on two batches of goods on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15, the ministry said in a statement. It gave no details of what goods would be affected but the timing matches Trump’s planned duty hikes.
The announcement comes as leaders of the Group of 7 major economies prepare to meet in France this weekend.
Washington is pressing Beijing to narrow its trade surplus and roll back plans for government-led creation of global competitors in robotics, electric cars and other technology industries.
On Friday, Trump tweeted, “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing… your companies HOME and making your products in the USA. I will be responding to China’s Tariffs this afternoon.”
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about what authority the president believes he has to order private companies to change their business practices. And it remained unclear hours after his tweets exactly what he had in mind.
Trump was meeting Friday morning with his trade advisers, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. They were discussing various potential options, including the possibility of imposing a 25% tariff on all Chinese exports to America, one of the people said. They spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details of closed-door meetings.
Peter Navarro, who advises Trump on trade policy, tried to downplay the impact of Chinese tariff hikes ahead of the meeting. He said they were “well anticipated” and would only strengthen Trump’s resolve.
China’s government appealed to Trump this week to compromise in order to reach a settlement.
That came after Trump warned that the American public might need to endure economic pain in order to achieve long-term results.
The United States, Europe, Japan and other trading partners say Beijing’s development plans violate its market-opening commitments and are based on stealing or pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology. Some American officials worry they might erode U.S. industrial leadership.
Chinese leaders have offered to alter details but are resisting giving up a development strategy they see as a path to prosperity and global influence.
The talks are deadlocked over how to enforce any deal. China insists Trump’s punitive tariffs have to be lifted as soon as an agreement takes effect. Washington says at least some have to stay to ensure Beijing carries out any promises it makes.
Trump announced plans to raise tariffs Sept. 1 on $300 billion of Chinese products after talks broke down in May. Increases on some goods were postponed to Dec. 15.
Trump escalated “trade frictions” and is “seriously threatening the multilateral trading system,” the China’s Finance Ministry said. “China was forced to take countermeasures.”
A separate statement said tariffs of 25% and 5% would be imposed on U.S.-made autos and auto parts on Dec. 15. Beijing announced that increase last year but suspended it after Trump and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, agreed at a meeting in December in Argentina to put off further trade action while they negotiated.
Trump and Xi agreed in June to resume negotiations. But talks in Shanghai in July ended with no indication of progress. Negotiators talked by phone this month and are due to meet again in Washington next month.
BMW, Tesla, Ford and Mercedes Benz are likely to be the hardest hit by the Chinese auto tariffs. In 2018, BMW exported about 87,000 luxury SUVs to China from a plant near Spartanburg, S.C. It exports more vehicles to China than any other U.S. auto plant.
Together, Ford, BMW, Mercedes and others exported about 164,000 vehicles to China from the U.S. in 2018, according to the Center for Automotive Research, a think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Most of them are luxury cars and SUVs with higher profit margins that can cover higher U.S. wages. The exports are down from about 262,000 in 2017.
Tesla, which is building a plant in China, last year got about 12% of its revenue by exporting about 14,300 electric cars and SUVs from California to China, according to Barclays. Most of Ford’s exports are from the Lincoln luxury brand, but most of the vehicles it sells in China are made in joint venture factories.
Trump already has imposed 25% tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese products. Beijing retaliated by imposing its own penalties on $110 billion of American goods. But their lopsided trade balance meant China was running out of imports for retaliation.
Friday’s announcement, if it applied to goods not already affected by Chinese penalties, would extend tariff hikes to everything China imports from the United States. That would match Trump’s hikes, which cover almost all of what Americans buy from China.
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McDonald reported from Beijing. Associated Press writers Tom Krisher in Detroit and Deb Riechmann in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Bolsonaro prepares to send army to contain Amazon fires

By MARCELO SILVA de SOUSA Associated Press
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Under increasing international pressure to contain record numbers of fires in the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday he might send the military to battle the massive blazes.
“That’s the plan,” said Bolsonaro. He did not say when the armed forces would get involved but suggested that action could be imminent.
Bolsonaro has previously described rainforest protections as an obstacle to economic development, sparring with critics who note that the Amazon produces vast amounts of oxygen and is considered crucial in efforts to contain global warming.
Small numbers of demonstrators gathered outside Brazilian diplomatic missions in Paris, London and Geneva to urge Brazil to do more to fight the fires.
Neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay have also struggled to contain fires that swept through woods and fields and, in many cases, got out of control in high winds after being set by residents clearing land for farming. About 7,500 square kilometers (2,900 square miles) of land has been affected in Bolivia, according to Defense Minister Javier Zavaleta.
On Friday, a B747-400 SuperTanker arrived in Bolivia to help with the fire-fighting effort. The U.S.-based aircraft can carry nearly 76,000 liters (20,000 gallons) of retardant, a substance used to stop fires.
Some 370 square kilometers (140 square miles) have burned in northern Paraguay, near the borders with Brazil and Bolivia, said Joaquín Roa, a Paraguayan state emergency official. He said the situation has stabilized.
In escalating tension over the fires, France accused Bolsonaro of having lied to French leader Emmanuel Macron and threatened to block a European Union trade deal with several South American states, including Brazil. Ireland joined in the threat.
The specter of possible economic repercussions for Brazil and its South American neighbors show how the Amazon is becoming a battleground between Bolsonaro and Western governments alarmed that vast swathes of the region are going up in smoke on his watch.
Ahead of a Group of Seven summit in France this weekend, Macron’s office issued a statement questioning Bolsonaro’s trustworthiness.
Brazilian statements and decisions indicate Bolsonaro “has decided to not respect his commitments on the climate, nor to involve himself on the issue of biodiversity,” Macron’s statement said.
It added that France now opposes an EU trade deal “in its current state” with the Mercosur bloc of South American nations that includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne also expressed concern, saying he is “truly worried about the attitude Brazil seems to have adopted right now regarding” fires in the Amazon.
“Brazilian rainforests are vital for the world’s climate” and Brazil should do whatever it can to stop the blazes, said Rinne, whose country holds the European Union’s rotating presidency.
Bolsonaro has accused Macron of politicizing the issue, and his government said European countries are exaggerating Brazil’s environmental problems in order to disrupt its commercial interests. Bolsonaro has said he wants to convert land for cattle pastures and soybean farms.
Even so, Brazilian state experts have reported a record of nearly 77,000 wildfires across the country so far this year, up 85% over the same period in 2018. Brazil contains about 60% of the Amazon rainforest, whose degradation could have severe consequences for global climate and rainfall.
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Associated Press journalists John Leicester in Paris; Juan Karita in Santa Cruz, Bolivia; Pedro Servin in Asunción, Paraguay; and Christopher Torchia in Caracas, Venezuela contributed to this report.

Boris Johnson prepares to take his place on world stage

By DANICA KIRKA Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has endeavored to lead his country since he was a boy, will get his first moment on the world stage in his new role at the Group of Seven summit in France this weekend. And he will be at pains to ensure it won’t be his last.
The man who has said his life’s ambition as a child was to be “world king” could be the shortest-serving prime minister in British history if he fails in his high-stakes gambit to force the European Union to reopen Brexit talks.
As Johnson prepares to meet with world leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump, at the seaside resort of Biarritz, opponents at home are plotting to bring him down with a no-confidence vote after Parliament returns from its summer recess next month.
Johnson, 55, who took power last month, is betting his political future on a promise to lead Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31, with or without an agreement. He says the threat of a no-deal Brexit is the only way to force the EU into making concessions.
But the G7 summit comes at the end of a week when Johnson has had to face the reality that the EU isn’t blinking despite his efforts to keep talking up the potential for a no-deal Brexit. That leaves Johnson stuck in a political vise at home.
While the no-deal pledge has helped Johnson win the backing of hardliners in his Conservative Party, they could withdraw their support if the newly minted prime minister fails to deliver. At the same time, opposition leaders claim a no-deal approach is a reckless policy that will lead to shortages of food, medicine and fuel, damaging the economy and hurting the country’s poorest people.
“The calculation for the Conservative Party still is: Are the electoral consequences of crashing out without a deal going to be worse than the electoral consequences of not delivering Brexit by the 31st of October?” said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at London Queen Mary University. “It’s a calculation on which everything turns.”
The Brexit battle has already claimed two prime ministers in a country that is deeply divided over the nature of its ties to Europe. David Cameron resigned in June 2016, the day after Britain narrowly voted in favor of leaving the EU. His successor, Theresa May, was forced to step down last month after Parliament rejected her withdrawal deal three times.
The main sticking point in that deal was the so-called Irish backstop, designed to prevent the return of customs checks on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. There are concerns the backstop would keep Britain tied to the EU indefinitely and threaten the integrity of the U.K. because it would treat Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the country.
Johnson has demanded that the EU scrap checkpoints and accept that technology or other “alternative methods” can be used to monitor the border.
After meeting with Johnson this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said they were open to discussing alternatives but stressed that they considered the backstop “indispensable” to ensuring the Irish peace process and protecting the integrity of the European single market, which allows free trade of good and services for 500 million people.
Johnson left the meetings saying France and Germany are “crucial friends and partners of the U.K.,” and spin doctors sought to capitalize on warm receptions offered by two pivotal EU members.
“Let’s get Brexit done, sensibly and pragmatically and in the interests of both sides,” Johnson tweeted. “Let’s get on with deepening and intensifying the friendship and the partnership between our nations.”
The markets responded to the merest glimmer that a deal — some sort of deal — might still take place. The pound rose $1.22, up from the week’s low of $1.20.
Smiles only go so far. Back in Brussels, EU officials were quick to ask what might be offered that had not been proposed in the past two years. And while Johnson’s team was streaming chummy pictures of his meetings in France and Germany, both Merkel and Macron were stressing that the matter was not just up to them. Other EU nations also would have to agree.
The lack of a breakthrough will make Johnson’s negotiations with another key ally — the U.S. — even more important.
Johnson and his supporters claim that one of the most important benefits of leaving the EU is that it will allow Britain to negotiate its own trade deals with countries, more than offsetting any decline in trade with the EU. The biggest prize would be a free-trade agreement with the U.S.
Johnson plans to meet with Trump in Biarritz as he tries to cement such a deal. Trump tweeted this week that he had already had a “great discussion” with Johnson.
Time is of the essence for Johnson. Not only does he have an Oct. 31 deadline, but Parliament returns in early September. He clings to power with a majority of one vote. But the final poker hand has not yet been played.
“The clock is ticking,” said Georgina Wright, a senior Brexit researcher at the Institute for Government. “We are close to 31 Oct. But we’re not close enough. It’s very difficult at this stage to know what compromises, if any, will be made and how.”
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Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

Putin orders Russia to respond after US missile test

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated Press
MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military on Friday to work out a quid pro quo response after the test of a new U.S. missile banned under a now-defunct arms treaty.
In Sunday’s test, a modified ground-launched version of a U.S. Navy Tomahawk cruise missile accurately struck its target more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) away. The test came after Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
Speaking at a meeting of his Security Council, Putin charged that the U.S. waged a “propaganda campaign” alleging Russian breaches of the pact to “untie its hands to deploy the previously banned missiles in different parts of the world.”
He ordered the Defense Ministry and other agencies to “take comprehensive measures to prepare a symmetrical answer.”
The U.S. said it withdrew from the treaty because of Russian violations, a claim that Moscow has denied.
In an interview this week with Fox News, Defense Secretary Mark Esper asserted that the Russian cruise missiles Washington has long claimed were a violation of the now-defunct Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty, might be armed with nuclear warheads.
“Right now Russia has possibly nuclear-tipped cruise – INF-range cruise missiles facing toward Europe, and that, that’s not a good thing,” Esper said.
The Russian leader noted that Sunday’s test was performed from a launcher similar to those deployed at a U.S. missile defense site in Romania. He argued that the Romanian facility and a prospective similar site in Poland could also be loaded with missiles intended to hit ground targets instead of interceptors.
Putin has previously pledged that Russia wouldn’t deploy the missiles previously banned by the INF Treaty to any area before the U.S. does that first, but he noted Friday that the use of the universal launcher means that a covert deployment is possible.
“How would we know what they will deploy in Romania and Poland — missile defense systems or strike missile systems with a significant range?” Putin said.
Russia long has charged that the U.S. launchers loaded with missile defense interceptors could be used for firing surface-to-surface missiles. Putin said that Sunday’s test has proven that the U.S. denials have been false.
“It’s indisputable now,” the Russian leader said.
He added the missile test that came just 16 days after the INF treaty’s termination has shown that the U.S. long had started work on the new systems banned by the treaty.
While Putin hasn’t spelled out possible retaliatory measures, some Moscow-based military experts theorized that Russia could adapt the sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles for use from ground launchers.
The Interfax news agency quoted a retired Russian general, Vladimir Bogatyryov, as saying that Moscow could put such missiles in Cuba or Venezuela if the U.S. deploys new missiles near Russian borders.
Putin said Russia will continue working on new weapons in response to the U.S. moves, but will keep a tight lid on spending.
“We will not be drawn into a costly arms race that would be disastrous for our economy,” Putin said, adding that Russia ranks seventh in military spending after the U.S., China, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Japan.
He added Russia remains open to an “equal and constructive dialogue with the U.S. to rebuild mutual trust and strengthen international security.”
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Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

France threatens economic retaliation over Amazon fires

By SYLVIE CORBET and JOHN LEICESTER Associated Press
BIARRITZ, France (AP) — In a sharp escalation of tensions over fires ravaging the Amazon, France on Friday accused Brazil’s president of having lied to French leader Emmanuel Macron and threatened to block a European Union trade deal with South American states including Brazil.
Ireland joined in the threat of possible economic repercussions for Brazil and its South American neighbors, starkly illustrating how the Amazon is becoming a battleground between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and increasingly critical governments alarmed that vast swathes of the rainforest are going up in smoke.
Having won support from other governments, but infuriated Bolsonaro, by putting the Amazon wildfires on the radar of world leaders gathering for a Group of Seven summit in France, Macron then further upped the stakes and the pressure with a bluntly-worded statement from his office Friday that took direct aim at Bolsonaro’s trustworthiness.
“In light of Brazil’s attitude these recent weeks,” the statement said, Macron “can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him during the Osaka Summit” in June where governments agreed on the “urgent need” to tackle climate change, pollution and environmental destruction.
“The decisions and statements from Brazil these recent weeks show clearly that President Bolsonaro has decided to not respect his commitments on the climate, nor to involve himself on the issue of biodiversity.”
As a consequence, France now opposes an EU trade deal “in its current state” with the Mercosur bloc of South American nations that includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar also said “there is no way that Ireland will vote” for the deal “if Brazil does not honor its environmental commitments.”
The tariff-slashing deal was billed as the EU’s largest ever trade agreement when struck in June. The deal also re-committed Mercosur nations to the Paris climate accord aimed at limiting global warming, which included pledged Brazilian action to stop illegal deforestation in the Amazon.
Macron first raised the alarm over the Amazon with a tweet Thursday saying: “Our house is burning. Literally.” He asked that the Amazon fires be added to the agenda of the G-7 summit of world leaders that he’s hosting this weekend, and quickly found backing from Germany, the EU and others.
Prime Minister Antii Rinne of Finland, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, described himself as “truly worried about the attitude Brazil seems to have adopted right now regarding its own forests” and called the Amazon fires “a threat to our whole planet, not just to Brazil or South America.”
Unusually, politicians found themselves on the same page as sports superstars, who used their global social media followings to also call for action to preserve the rainforest.
Soccer’s five-time world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo tweeted : “The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen and it’s been burning for the past 3 weeks. It’s our responsibility to help to save our planet.”
Other soccer stars chimed in, too — unusual in the sport whose professionals are often reluctant to express views about off-pitch issues.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe, a World Cup winner with France, tweeted a composite photo of rainforest in the shape of human lungs , lush and green on one side, consumed by flames on the other, and the words: “Pray for Amazonia.”
And from the world of tennis came a straight-to-the point tweet from top-ranked Novak Djokovic. “Heartbreaking,” the winner of 16 majors wrote above a photo of forests aflame.
But Bolsonaro bristled.
The Brazilian leader accused Macron of sensationalism and of seeking “personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries.” Brazil contains about 60% of the Amazon rainforest.
Even if Amazon nations did seek help in fighting the fires, there may not be much that European governments could quickly offer in the way of material assistance.
Amphibious planes widely used in Europe to dump water and retardants on wildfires don’t have the range to cross the Atlantic Ocean, Col. Grégory Allione, head of France’s national federation of firefighters, told The Associated Press.
Larger, land-based fire-fighting planes could only reach the Amazon from Europe via a circuitous route over Greenland, North and Central America, which “would take an eternity,” he said.
And European governments might not have much firefighting expertise and manpower to spare after another scorching European summer that saw record heat waves and left many areas of Europe tinder-dry, another consequence of climate change.
“We’re already very busy,” Allione said. “We’ve always had fires but now we have giant infernos.”
Environmental campaigners said longer-term solutions were needed to preserve the Amazon. Some have accused Macron of hypocrisy, arguing that while he’s adept at using Twitter to position himself as a champion for the planet, his domestic record on green issues is spotty at best. His first environment minister quit abruptly, frustrated by the slow progress fighting climate change and other environmental problems under Macron’s government.
“Both inequalities and climate change are two fires on the planet, on the humanity. They are big threats for us all,” said Cecile Duflot, head of Oxfam France and another former minister of Macron’s. “What happens in the Amazon of course hurts us, but this is not a coincidence. It is a political choice made by Bolsonaro to destroy nature, to support those who are destroying nature, so we must absolutely act together in a concerted, determined and diplomatic way together with the local population who are living this as an absolute disaster.”
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John Leicester reported from Paris.

Mysterious missile explosion in Russia raises questions

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated Press
MOSCOW (AP) — A deadly explosion at a naval weapons testing range in northwestern Russia. A brief spike in radiation levels. An evacuation order issued, then rescinded, for a nearby village.
Last week’s mysterious accident on the White Sea, along with changing or contradictory information from Russian authorities, has led to speculation about what happened and what type of weapon was involved, and has even raised comparisons to the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
What is known and unknown about the Aug. 8 incident in the Russian region of Arkhangelsk:
THE SECRET TESTING RANGE
A testing range was set up near the village of Nyonoksa, about 1,000 kilometers (615 miles) north of Moscow on the White Sea in 1954, when the Soviet Union’s missile program was still in its nascent phase. It has served as the main ground for testing a variety of missiles used by the Soviet and then Russian navy ever since.
They included anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles of various types, as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles intended for the nation’s nuclear submarines.
The authorities have routinely closed various parts of the White Sea’s Dvina Bay to navigation during missile tests, and the approximately 500 residents of Nyonoksa have regularly been asked to temporarily leave their homes, usually for a few hours at a time, apparently as a routine precaution during military activity.
The area has been off-limits to the outsiders, but tourists who ask for advance permission have been allowed to visit Nyonoksa, the site of a beautiful 18th century wooden church.
The village is connected by rail to Severodvinsk, a city of 183,000 people about 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the east.
THE EXPLOSION
First word of the explosion came from the Russian Defense Ministry, which initially said the Aug. 8 blast of a liquid-propellant rocket engine killed two people and injured six others. It said in a statement that no radiation had been released, although the city administration in Severodvinsk reported a brief rise in radiation levels — a contradiction that recalled Soviet-era cover-ups of disasters like Chernobyl.
Two days later, Russia’s state-controlled nuclear agency Rosatom acknowledged that the explosion occurred on an offshore platform during tests of a “nuclear isotope power source,” and that it killed five nuclear engineers and injured three others. It’s still not clear whether those casualties were in addition to the earlier dead and injured.
Russian authorities then closed part of Dvina Bay to shipping for a month, an apparent attempt to keep outsiders from seeing an operation to recover the missile debris.
On Monday, the five engineers were buried in Sarov, a city that hosts Russia’s main nuclear weapons research center.
THE RADIATION
The city administration in Severodvinsk, which has a huge shipyard that builds nuclear submarines, said the radiation levels there rose to 2 microsieverts per hour — approximately 20 times the area’s average reading — for about 30 minutes on Aug. 8. It then returned to the area’s average natural level of 0.1 microsieverts per hour.
Emergency officials issued a warning to all workers to stay indoors and close the windows. Frightened residents rushed to buy iodine, which can help reduce risks from exposure to radiation.
A later report from Russia’s state weather and environmental monitoring agency said the peak radiation reading in Severodvinsk on Aug. 8 was 1.78 microsieverts per hour in just one neighborhood — about 16 times the average. Peak readings in other parts of Severodvinsk varied between 0.45 and 1.33 microsieverts per hour. It said that radiation levels fell back to normal after 2½ hours.
The brief increase in radiation didn’t pose any health dangers, authorities said. The recorded peak levels were indeed lower than the cosmic radiation that plane passengers are exposed to on longer flights or doses that patients get during some medical scans.
The authorities haven’t registered any increase in radiation since then. Local emergency officials also said ground samples from around the area revealed no trace of radioactive contamination.
On Monday, Nyonoksa residents were asked to leave the village for several hours, causing new worries. The order was quickly rescinded by the military, who said they canceled the activities at the range that had warranted the initial evacuation order.
Arkhangelsk region Gov. Igor Orlov said, “There is no evacuation,” and he claimed that some reports about the incident sought to sow panic.
THE MYSTERY MISSILE
Neither the Defense Ministry nor Rosatom identified the type of weapon that exploded during the test.
But Rosatom’s statement said the explosion occurred during tests of a “nuclear isotope power source,” which led observers to conclude it was the “Burevestnik” or “Storm Petrel,” a nuclear-powered cruise missile. NATO has code-named the missile “Skyfall.”
The missile was first revealed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his 2018 state-of-the-nation address, along with other doomsday weapons.
President Donald Trump backed that theory Monday, tweeting, “The Russian ‘Skyfall’ explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!” Trump added that “the United States is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia. We have similar, though more advanced, technology.”
Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union worked on nuclear-powered missiles in the 1960s, but they abandoned such designs as too unstable and dangerous to operate.
When he spoke about the prospective nuclear-powered cruise missile, Putin claimed it will have an unlimited range, allowing it to circle the globe undetected by missile defense systems. He said the missile had successfully undergone the first tests, but many observers have remained skeptical, arguing that such a weapon could be very difficult to handle and pose a threat to the environment.
Some media reports indicated that previous tests of the Burevestnik had been conducted on the barren Arctic archipelago of Novaya Zemlya and the Kapustin Yar testing range in southern Russia.

German economy shrinks, casting shadow over European growth

By DAVID McHUGH AP Business Writer
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Germany’s economy shrank by 0.1 percent in the second quarter as global trade conflicts and troubles in the auto industry held back the largest member of the 19-country euro currency union.
The weak performance darkened prospects for the entire eurozone, where the European Central Bank is poised to add more monetary stimulus at its next meeting.
It also raised the possibility that Germany could enter a technical recession by posting another consecutive quarter of falling output.
The state statistics agency Destatis said Wednesday that falling exports held back output compared to the first quarter, while demand from consumers and government spending at home supported the economy. In comparison to the same quarter a year ago, the economy grew 0.4 percent.
Germany’s economy is facing headwinds as its auto industry, a key employer and pillar of growth, faces challenges adjusting to tougher emissions standards in Europe and China and to technological change. Uncertainty over the terms of Britain’s planned exit from the EU has also weighed on confidence more generally — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said his country will leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal to smooth the path to the new trading relationship.
Analyst Carsten Brzeski at ING said trade conflicts and the struggling automotive sector were key reasons why output had fallen. The last time the German economy contracted on a quarterly basis was the third quarter last year when the automotive sector was dealing with bottlenecks getting cars certified under new emissions standards.
“Increased uncertainty, rather than direct effects from trade conflicts, has dented sentiment and hence economic activity,” Brzeski wrote in an emailed research note.
U.S. President Donald Trump has imposed new tariffs on Chinese goods while seeking a broader trade agreement and has indicated he may impose import tariffs on autos that would hit European manufacturers. Uncertainty over the outcome of those talks and what the future trading regime will look like among the U.S., China and Europe has weighed on business optimism, deterring business spending and investment.
That comes on top of structural change in the auto industry, where tightening emissions regulations in Europe and China and digital technologies are pushing automakers to make heavy investments in battery-powered cars and smartphone-based services, with uncertain payoff.
Germany continues to enjoy low unemployment of 3.1% but lower exports have raised concerns that weakening external demand will spread to domestic consumers and businesses. Germany runs a large trade and investment surplus with the rest of the world, which leaves it more vulnerable to a slowdown in global trade.
Slowing growth has also increased debate over the German government’s practice of running budget surpluses. The International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Treasury Department and some economists at home have said Germany should cut tax burdens and spend more on infrastructure to boost domestic demand. That could make the country less dependent on exports.
On Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she sees no need for a stimulus package “so far” but added that “we will react according to the situation,” the dpa news agency reported. She pointed to plans to remove the so-called solidarity tax, an added income tax aimed at covering costs associated with rebuilding the former East Germany, for most taxpayers. Andreas Rees, chief German economist at UniCredit, said that the growth figures and Merkel’s nuanced remarks indicated the likelihood of a moderate fiscal easing next year “has increased significantly.”
The German quarterly decline was a big reason why growth across the wider 19-country eurozone has slowed. Two quarters of declining output is one common definition of a recession. Figures also released Wednesday confirmed that the eurozone’s growth halved in the second quarter of the year to just 0.2%. Germany’s industrial problems also contributed to the large 1.6% monthly fall in the currency bloc’s industrial production in June.
The European Central Bank has signaled it is preparing a package of additional monetary stimulus measures including a possible rate cut and bond purchases that could be announced at its Sept. 12 meeting.

Flights resume at Hong Kong airport as protesters apologize

By VINCENT THIAN and YANAN WANG Associated Press
HONG KONG (AP) — Flights resumed Wednesday at Hong Kong’s airport after two days of disruptions that descended into clashes with police, highlighting the hardening positions of pro-democracy protesters and the authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. After nightfall, a new protest outside a police station in the city was dispersed as officers fired tear gas.
There was soul-searching in the protest movement, including the three dozen demonstrators who remained camped at the airport arrivals area. They asked travelers and the general public for forgiveness after their blockade turned into chaotic and frenzied violence.
While the movement’s supporters still have street protests planned, it’s unclear what their next move is or whether they will be able to find new rallying sites to keep the pressure on authorities.
Protesters spread pamphlets and posters on the floor in one section of the terminal but were not impeding travelers. Online, they also circulated letters and promotional materials apologizing for the inconveniences during the past five days of the airport occupation.
“It is not our intention to cause delays to your travels and we do not want to cause inconvenience to you,” said an emailed statement from a group of protesters. “We ask for your understanding and forgiveness as young people in Hong Kong continue to fight for freedom and democracy.”
The airport’s management said it had obtained “an interim injunction to restrain persons from unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering” with airport operations. It said an area of the airport had been set aside for demonstrations, but no protests would be allowed outside the designated area.
Additional identification checks were in place, but check-in counters were open and flights appeared to be operating normally. The demonstration resulted in more than 100 flight cancellations on Tuesday and about 200 on Monday.
Hong Kong police said they arrested five people during clashes at the airport Tuesday night.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Operations Mak Chin-ho said the men, aged between 17 and 28, were arrested for illegal assembly. Two were also charged with assaulting a police officer and possessing weapons as riot police sought to clear the terminal.
In Hong Kong’s blue-collar Sham Shui Po neighborhood, police fired tear gas Wednesday night at a group of protesters rallying outside a police station.
The protesters had gathered to burn phony currency and incense as a way to show their opposition to the police during the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival, when offerings are made to ward off the spirits of ancestors.
Police armed with riot shields and batons marched through the neighborhood. Officers carried warning flags and fired tear gas as they advanced, but protesters had already scrambled away.
More than 700 protesters have been arrested in total since early June, mostly men in their 20s and 30s, but also including women, teenagers and septuagenarians.
Mak said additional suspects from the airport were expected to be arrested, including those who assaulted an officer after stripping him of his baton and pepper spray, prompting him to draw his gun to fend them off.
Hong Kong law permits life imprisonment for those who commit violent acts or acts that might interfere with flight safety at an airport.
More than 74 million travelers pass through Hong Kong’s airport each year, making it “not an appropriate place of protest,” Mak said.
“Hong Kong police have always facilitated peaceful and orderly protests over the years, but the extremely radical and violent acts have certainly crossed the line and are to be most severely condemned,” he said. “The police pledge to all citizens of Hong Kong that we will take steps to bring all culprits to justice.”
That was backed up by a statement on a new government website set up to provide the latest information on the crisis, which said, “The police will take relentless enforcement action to bring the persons involved to justice.”
Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific said it had canceled 272 flights in the past two days, affecting more than 55,000 passengers, while 622 departures and arrivals went ahead.
Cathay also said it has fired two pilots in an apparent response to their involvement in activity related to pro-democracy protests. They included one pilot who is “currently involved in legal proceedings.” The airline said earlier this week one of its pilots has been charged with rioting after being arrested during a protest.
It said the second fired pilot “misused company information,” but gave no other details. The Hong Kong Free Press reported the pilot posted a photo of a cockpit screen on an online forum used by protesters.
The airport disruptions grew from a summer of demonstrations aimed at what many Hong Kong residents see as an increasing erosion of the freedoms they were promised in 1997 when Communist Party-ruled mainland China took over what had been a British colony.
While Hong Kong’s crucial travel industry suffers major losses, the city’s reputation as a well-regulated center for finance is also taking a hit. At least 21 countries and regions have issued travel safety alerts for their citizens traveling to Hong Kong, saying protests have become more violent and unpredictable.
The demonstrators demand that Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam step down and scrap proposed legislation under which some suspects could be sent to mainland China, where critics say they could face torture and unfair or politically charged trials.
Lam has rejected calls for dialogue, saying the protesters were threatening to push their home into an “abyss.”
The Chinese Cabinet’s liaison office in Hong Kong said the protesters had “entirely ruptured legal and moral bottom lines” and would face swift and severe repercussions under Hong Kong’s legal system.
“Their behavior shows extreme contempt for the law, seriously damages Hong Kong’s international image and deeply hurts the feelings of the broad masses of their mainland compatriots,” the statement said.
Most of the protesters left the airport Tuesday after riot police tried to enter the terminal, fighting with demonstrators who barricaded entrances with luggage carts. The brief clash led to several injuries.
The violence included protesters beating up at least two men they suspected of being undercover Chinese agents. Airport security appeared unable to control the crowd, and paramedics later took both men away. Police have acknowledged using “decoy” officers, and some protesters over the weekend were seen being arrested by men dressed like demonstrators — in black and wearing face masks.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, identified one of the men as a journalist at the nationalistic Chinese tabloid.
“Fu Guohao, reporter of GT website is being seized by demonstrators at HK airport,” Hu wrote on his Twitter account. “I affirm this man being tied in this video is the reporter himself. He has no other task except for reporting.”
The protesters apologized that some of them had become “easily agitated and overreacted.” On posters, the demonstrators said they have been “riddled with paranoia and rage” after discovering undercover police officers in their ranks.
Earlier this week, the central government in Beijing issued an ominous characterization of the protest movement as something approaching “terrorism” — a label it routinely applies to nonviolent protests of government policies on the environment or in minority regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet.
Satellite photos show what appear to be armored personnel carriers and other vehicles belonging to the China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police parked in a sports complex in the city of Shenzhen, across the border in Hong Kong, in what some have interpreted as a threat from Beijing to use increased force against protesters.
The pictures collected on Monday by Maxar’s WorldView show 500 or more vehicles sitting in and around the soccer stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center.
President Donald Trump tweeted that U.S. intelligence believes that the Chinese government is moving troops to its border with Hong Kong and that, “Everyone should be calm and safe!”
While China has yet to threaten using the army — as it did against pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989 — recent police exercises across Hong Kong’s border with mainland China were a sign of its ability to crush the demonstrations, even at a cost to Hong Kong’s reputation as a safe haven for business and international exchange.
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Associated Press video journalist Katie Tam in Hong Kong and writer Kelvin Chan in London contributed.

Satellite photos: Chinese armored vehicles near Hong Kong

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) — Satellite photos show what appear to be armored personnel carriers and other vehicles belonging to the China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police parked in a sports complex in the city of Shenzhen, in what some have interpreted as a threat from Beijing to use increased force against pro-democracy protesters across the border in Hong Kong.
The pictures collected on Monday by Maxar’s WorldView show 500 or more vehicles sitting on and around the soccer stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center just across the harbor from the Asian financial hub that has been rocked by more than two months of near-daily street demonstrations.
Flights at Hong Kong’s airport, one of the world’s busiest, were disrupted on Monday and Tuesday by a mass demonstration and occasional violence inside its terminal.
Chinese state media have said only that the Shenzhen exercises had been planned before hand and were not directly related to the unrest in Hong Kong, although they came shortly after the central government in Beijing said the protests were beginning to show the “sprouts of terrorism.”
President Donald Trump tweeted that U.S. intelligence believes that the Chinese government is moving troops to its border with Hong Kong and that, “Everyone should be calm and safe!”
Beijing has been apparently reluctant to send in police or army units from the mainland or to mobilize the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong to quell the unrest. It’s seen as mindful of the devastating effect that would have both on the territory’s reputation as a safe and stable place to invest in, and as indication of the Communist Party’s failure to win over the hearts and minds of the city’s 7.3 million residents, 22 years after the former British colony was handed over to China.
It would also be a shocking reminder of the PLA’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, which remains a taboo subject in China but is memorialized with a massive rally and march each year in Hong Kong.
Yet, mainland China is believed to have already dispatched officers to fortify the ranks of the Hong Kong police, and may also have planted decoys among the protesters in order to encourage more violent acts that could eventually turn ordinary Hong Kongers against the protest movement.
Such a change in sentiments does not yet appear to have happened despite rising violence surrounding protests and the shutdown of the city’s usually bustling international airport for two days after it was occupied by demonstrators.

European theaters mostly wait-and-see on Domingo accusations

BY COLLEEN BARRY Associated Press
MILAN (AP) — While two U.S. opera houses immediately canceled performances by famed tenor Placido Domingo following sexual harassment allegations, European opera houses are taking stances ranging from supportive to wait-and-see.
The Philadelphia Orchestra and San Francisco Opera immediately announced they would cancel upcoming performances featuring the star and the Los Angeles Opera opened an investigation following an Associated Press story in which numerous women accused the opera legend of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior spanning decades.
In Europe, there were no immediate cancellations of the 78-year-old Domingo’s performances and even some words of support for the star. Opera world officials noted that no charges had been brought against Domingo and no formal judicial investigations were underway that might provide legal underpinning to cancel any contractual obligations.
Nineteen of the singer’s 24 engagements through November 2020 are on European stages, according to his website. Upcoming performances in Salzburg, Milan, London, Zurich, Cologne, Hamburg and Geneva were still on but some venues said they would monitor the investigation in Los Angeles, where Domingo has been general director since 2003 and previously was artistic director.
Other venues postponed comment, citing the summer holiday, or were not reachable.
The stark differences in the levels of urgency in the responses underline the differences in the footing of the #MeToo movement on both sides of the Atlantic.
Opera houses in the United States might consider the possibility of damaging protests outside their venues if they maintained the scheduled performances. But, in Europe Domingo’s status as one of the most popular and influential figures in the opera world could trigger a backlash against venues if performances were canceled without due process, said one opera official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of lack of authorization to discuss personnel matters.
“Some attitudes, seen in hindsight, risk being misunderstood,” cultural journalist Leonetta Bentivoglio wrote Wednesday in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. “That he was a Don Juan was something everyone knew, and in the promiscuous theater world he is not alone. We must add that his charm has always attracted a crowd of women, and often it was he who had to defend himself.”
Bentivoglio recalled an incident at a Paris hotel during Domingo’s “Three Tenors” heyday with Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras, when he asked journalists to pretend to accompany him in the elevator “to escape to his room without being followed by some beautiful young women,” who were in pursuit.
“These are difficult stories to tell in the slippery era of #MeToo,” she wrote.
Domingo did not respond to detailed questions from the AP about specific incidents, but issued a statement calling the allegations “deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate.”
“Still, it is painful to hear that I may have upset anyone or made them feel uncomfortable — no matter how long ago and despite my best intentions. I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual. People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone,” the statement said.
“However, I recognize that the rules and standards by which we are —and should be — measured against today are very different than they were in the past. I am blessed and privileged to have had a more than 50-year career in opera and will hold myself to the highest standards.”
Domingo has received direct support from the Salzburg Festival in Austria, his next scheduled performance on Aug. 31, as well as from some singers who have shared the stage with him.
Salzburg Festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler, who said she has known Domingo for 25 years and has long appreciated both his “artistic competence” and “appreciative treatment of all festival employees,” said “it would be factually wrong and morally irresponsible to make irreversible judgments at this point.”
The Hamburg opera house in Germany also said Domingo’s Nov. 27 appearance there was still on, citing the lack of any legal action against the tenor.
“As a public institution we neither tolerate nor trivialize sexual assaults, but we are also bound by the principles of the rule of law in our actions. Valid contracts with the concert promoter exist for the appearance of Plácido Domingo,” the opera house said in a statement. “Subject to further developments, the concert will therefore take place as planned.”
Domingo has a reputation for making the rounds of offices when he arrives at theaters to greet employees and workers at every level — a characteristic that has helped make him beloved in a world full of demanding divas and divos. He also founded the Operalia world opera contest, an event attracting 1,000 applicants each year that has helped launch careers for the last 26 years.
Three Spanish sopranos have come to his defense, saying that they have never experienced the sort of behavior described in the AP story, which included accusations that he put his hand down one woman’s skirt and forced wet kisses on three others. All of the allegations were related to incidents in the United States, spanning two decades beginning in the late 1980s.
Spain’s Europa Press news agency on Wednesday quoted Spanish soprano Davinia Rodriguez as saying she “never felt the least indication of what they accuse the maestro of,” adding that Domingo had always shown her and theater workers “the maximum of respect, with the humbleness and generosity that characterizes him.”
Fellow Spanish soprano Pilar Jurado said that Domingo had always behaved “as a perfect gentleman” with her and Spanish soprano Ainho Arteta expressed shock at the allegations, saying she considered Domingo and his wife to be family.
“I have no idea if he might have flirted and scored. That sort of thing went on before and still does now, but I know he is not a harasser, I’d put my hand in the fire on it,” Arteta told the Spanish daily El Pais.
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Associated Press writers Ciaran Giles in Madrid, David Rising in Berlin, Jamey Keaten in Geneva and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.