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British new PM, Starmer embarks on first foreign trip to Washington

UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer jets off to Washington Tuesday to attend NATO’s 75th anniversary summit, his first foreign trip since becoming British leader last Friday following a landslide election victory.

He will reaffirm Britain’s enduring support for the Western military alliance and Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression.

Starmer, 61, told a meeting of his top team that the summit represents an opportunity to “reset relationships, reinvigorate our unshakeable commitment to the alliance and demonstrate the strength of Britain on the world stage”.

The visit kicks off a whirlwind of international diplomacy in Starmer’s first two weeks in power, with the UK also hosting a European leaders’ conference next week.

“It will be an opportunity for him to learn and get to know other leaders as much as to communicate any particular messages,” foreign policy expert James Strong told AFP.

Britain’s previous Conservative government was one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, providing money, weapons and troop training to help it repel Russia’s invasion.

Starmer has pledged continued support for Kyiv under Labour, and is expected to reaffirm that message in person to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the NATO meeting.

Starmer’s Defence Secretary John Healey has already visited Ukraine since last Thursday’s election, and Foreign Secretary David Lammy has been visiting European NATO members.

Labour is committed to the alliance and wants to match the Conservatives’ promise to raise defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP, above the NATO target of two percent.

We can expect lots of talk about ‘business as usual’,” added Strong, a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London.

While Starmer will stress continuity on the main foreign policy issues, he will also be keen to signal a reset in relations with allies that were soured by Brexit.

Labour has pledged closer cooperation with European neighbours, including on bilateral deals with France and Germany but also on agreements with the EU bloc as a whole.

We can expect to hear a lot of talk about improving relations, about being a more reliable partner, and above all about being more stable and predictable,” said Strong.

The trip also presents an early opportunity for Starmer to build a rapport with US President Joe Biden and cement the so-called UK-US special relationship.

Starmer’s centre-left Labour party is more closely aligned with Biden’s Democratic Party than the Conservatives, which could help, but the trip comes at a sensitive time for the US president.

Following a poor debate performance, Biden, 81, is under pressure to make way and allow a younger Democrat to take on Republican rival Donald Trump in November’s presidential election.

Starmer will be mindful that he may have to deal with the isolationist Trump from January next year.

“(He) will want to demonstrate his rock-solid commitment to the UK’s alliance with America, and to send a strong signal about the resilience of the ‘special relationship’, whatever lies ahead,” Sophia Gaston, head of foreign policy at the right-wing Policy Exchange think-tank, told AFP.

A point of contention between Starmer and Biden could be the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, with Labour viewed as more pro-Palestinian than Washington.

The leaders are also likely to discuss policy towards China, including on trade, commerce and technology.

Starmer will then host the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace, near Oxford, in central England, on July 18, with France’s president Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s leader Olaf Scholz expected to attend.

Labour wants “an ambitious” security pact with the European Union.

Olivia O’Sullivan, director of the UK in the world programme at the Chatham House international affairs think-tank, told AFP the two summits “provide an opportunity to put more meat on the bones of this proposal”.

Starmer may also want to flesh out the shape of a post-Brexit trading deal, after his introduction to life on the global stage in Washington.

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International

US President, Joe Biden tests positive for COVID-19

US President Joe Biden has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms.

Biden, 81, tested positive following his first event in Las Vegas, where he was expected to later speak at the UnidosUS annual conference.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced the positive test for the 81-year-old Democrat after the president of UnidosUS, a Latino civil rights organization, said Biden would not be able to speak at a scheduled event due to the diagnosis.

In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden tested positive earlier in the day “following his first event in Las Vegas.”

“He is vaccinated and boosted and he is experiencing mild symptoms,” Jean-Pierre said.

“He will be returning to Delaware where he will self-isolate and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time. The White House will provide regular updates on the President’s status as he continues to carry out the full duties of the office while in isolation.”

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International

Trump announces Ohio senator, JD Vance as running mate

Former U.S. President, Donald Trump on Monday announced Ohio Senator, JD Vance as his running mate for the November presidential election.

Trump announced the choice of Vance as his running mate on his Truce Social.

He said after lengthy deliberation and thought, and considering the tremendous talents of many others,  he had decided that the person best suited to assume the position of Vice President of the United States is Senator J.D. Vance of the Great State of Ohio.

Trump said J.D. honorably served the country in the Marine Corps, graduated from Ohio State University in two years, Summa Cum Laude, and is a Yale Law School Graduate, where he was Editor of The Yale Law Journal, and President of the Yale Law Veterans Association.

“J.D.’s book, ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ became a Major Best Seller and Movie, as it championed the hardworking men and women of our Country. J.D. has had a very successful business career in Technology and Finance, and now, during the Campaign, will be strongly focused on the people he fought so brilliantly for, the American Workers and Farmers in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, and far beyond….”

“….As Vice President, J.D. will continue to fight for our Constitution, stand with our Troops, and will do everything he can to help me MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. Congratulations to Senator J.D. Vance, his wife, Usha, who also graduated from Yale Law School, and their three beautiful children. MAGA2024,” Trump stated.

The CNN reports that the decision further elevated Vance, who has adopted the former president’s populist agenda after years of pointed criticism of Trump.

Vance, a venture capitalist and the author of the best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” was elected to the US Senate in 2022 after receiving a boost from Trump in a contentious Republican primary.

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International

Secret service kill man who shot at Trump in failed assassination attempt

The gunman who attempted to assassinate former President Donald Trump Saturday has been identified, according to the New York Post.

He has been identified as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks.

One of Crooks’ bullets at Bethel Park grazed the former President in the ear during an outdoor rally in Butler, just outside Pittsburgh.

Sources told the New York Post that Crooks was planted on a roof of a manufacturing plant more than 130 yards away from the stage at Butler Farm Show grounds.

Cooks was shot dead by Secret Service snipers and an AR-style rifle recovered from him.

Bethel Park is a village 40 miles south of where the Butler rally was held.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear as to why Crooks attempted to assassinate Trump, who is the presidential candidate of the Republican party

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