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U.S. sends carriers to South China Sea during Chinese drills – Reuters

(Reuters) – Two U.S. aircraft carriers were conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea on Saturday, the U.S. navy said, as China also carried out military drills that have been criticised by the Pentagon and neighbouring states.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is seen during its visit to Hong Kong, China November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Yuyang Wang

China and the United States have accused each other of stoking tension in the strategic waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from the new coronavirus to trade to Hong Kong.

The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement.

It did not say exactly where the exercises were being conducted in the South China Sea, which extends for some 1,500 km (900 miles) and 90% of which is claimed by China despite the protests of its neighbours.

“The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” Rear Admiral George M. Wikoff was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the exercises.

Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by the Ronald Reagan, said the exercises were not a response to those being conducted by China, which the Pentagon criticised this week as “counter-productive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability”.

China dismissed the U.S. criticism of its drills on Friday and suggested the United States was to blame for increasing tensions.

U.S. carriers have long carried out exercises in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea, according to the U.S. navy. At one point recently, the United States had three carriers in the region.

China announced last week it had scheduled five days of drills starting July 1 near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both Vietnam and China.

Vietnam and the Philippines have also criticised the planned Chinese drills, warning they could create tension in the region and impact Beijing’s relationship with its neighbours.

The United States accuses China of trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year.

The U.S. statement said the naval exercises gave commanders the flexibility and capabilities “that only the U.S. Navy can command”.

Reporting by Matthew Tostevin; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by William Mallard

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U.S. sends Brazil 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, drug touted by Trump – Yahoo News

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has supplied Brazil with 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine for use against the coronavirus, the two governments said on Sunday, despite medical warnings about risks associated with the anti-malaria drug.

The White House released a joint announcement on the drug, whose use has been touted both by U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, just days after the World Health Organization suspended testing it in COVID-19 patients because of safety concerns.

Trump himself said in mid-May that he was on a regimen of hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had issued a warning about its use for the coronavirus.

Bolsonaro, a right-wing leader who has forged personal ties with Trump, said recently he kept a box of the drug in case his 93-year-old mother needed it.

“The American and Brazilian people stand in solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus,” the statement said. “We are announcing the United States Government has delivered two million doses of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to the people of Brazil.”

“HCQ will be used as a prophylactic to help defend Brazil’s nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals against the virus. It will also be used as a therapeutic to treat Brazilians who become infected,” it said.

The two countries will also conduct a joint research effort that will include “randomized controlled clinical trials,” the statement said, adding that the United States would soon send 1,000 ventilators to Brazil.

Brazil reported a record 33,274 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, its Health Ministry said, and the death toll surpassed that of France and now ranks only below the United States, Britain and Italy.

Demand for the decades-old hydroxychloroquine has surged as Trump repeatedly promoted its use against the coronavirus despite a lack of scientific evidence.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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