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The U.S. Navy’s top officer will visit China starting Sunday amid increasing frictions in the South China Sea and other tensions underscoring their rivalry for dominance in Asia.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson will meet with his counterpart Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong and leaders of China’s Central Military Commission during his visit to Beijing and the eastern city of Nanjing lasting through Wednesday, the Navy said.

The goal of the visit, Richardson’s second as head of operations, is to “continue a results-oriented, risk reduction focused dialogue” between the two militaries, the Navy said.

“A routine exchange of views is essential, especially in times of friction, in order to reduce risk and avoid miscalculation,” the release quoted Richardson as saying. “Honest and frank dialogue can improve the relationship in constructive ways, help explore areas where we share common interests, and reduce risk while we work through our differences.”

Richardson and Shen met previously at the 2018 International Seapower Symposium in the U.S. and have held three discussions via video teleconference, the most recent in December, the release said.

China has long chafed at the robust U.S. naval presence in its region, seeing that as a key component of a strategy to contain its development.

In recent years, the South China Sea has become the main area of contention, home to islands, rich fishing grounds, undersea mineral deposits and shipping lanes through which pass an estimated $5 trillion in goods annually. China claims virtually the entire waterway on historical grounds and has strengthened its hold through the fortification of its island holdings and the construction and man-made outposts by piling sand and concrete atop coral reefs.

Five other governments also exercise overlapping claims in the area and while the U.S. takes no formal position on sovereignty, it insists on the right to navigation and overflight, including in air and waters within the territorial limits surrounding China’s holdings.

Such freedom of navigation operations intended to assert such rights have enraged China, which has vowed to take whatever measures to thwart them.

While those usually involve the dispatch of ships and aircraft to warn off U.S. vessels, in late September, a Chinese destroyer came perilously close to the USS Decatur in the South China Sea in what the U.S. Navy called an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver.” Navy officers downplayed the incident, calling it unfortunate, rare and something they’d like to avoid in future.

Richardson has said such patrols highlight the U.S. position against “illegitimate maritime claims.”

Chinese navy academy researcher Senior Captain Zhang Junshe said Wednesday that Beijing may further fortify the outposts depending on perceived threats.

While the sides have sought to boost understanding and signed agreements to handle unexpected confrontations at air and sea, deep mistrust lingers.

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Tim Cook reportedly met with an vice premier in China

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Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the annual session of China Development Forum (CDF) 2018 at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 26, 2018.

Jason Lee | Reuters

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the annual session of China Development Forum (CDF) 2018 at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 26, 2018.

Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly met with a top official in China Friday as he tours the country ahead of the China Development Forum and Apple’s own event on Monday.

State-run news agency Xinhua reported that Cook met with Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan on Friday. Apple did not immediately return a request for comment on the topic of the meeting or other reasons for Cook’s trip to China, but Xinhua said Sun “made positive remarks” about Apple’s role in relations between the U.S. and China.

According to local reports, Cook also visited an online education company that is incorporating augmented reality into its product and met with a Chinese musician as he touted Apple’s streaming service. Cook has been in the country since Thursday and has posted about the trip on Weibo, 9to5Mac reported.

It’s unclear if Cook will be in attendance at this weekend’s Chinese Economic Forum, though Apple is listed as a participating group on the event’s website. Cook attended the forum last year, where he had called for data privacy regulation following Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal that revealed the agency exploited millions of user data without their explicit consent.

Cook’s trip follows a turbulent year for commerce between the U.S. and China due to ongoing trade tensions between the two countries. Apple’s revenue in the region was hit hard in its first quarter 2019, dropping nearly $5 billion from the previous year. Cook had cited economic slowdowns in China as a chief cause for its disappointing revenue in the quarter, but still expressed optimism in an interview with CNBC following the report.

“I’m encouraged by the comments coming out of both countries,” Cook told CNBC’s Josh Lipton at the time. But the path forward between the two countries still remains unsettled.

Cook is expected back in the U.S. by Monday, when Apple is hosting its own event where analysts anticipate it will unveil a new streaming service.

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Watch: CNBC’s full interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook



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Putin’s missile with ‘unlimited’ range is too expensive and hasn’t flown more than 22 miles

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Putin’s push to develop weapons of this caliber has sparked concerns of a budding arms race among China, the U.S. and Russia.

What’s more, the latest revelations come a little more than a year after the Russian leader touted his nation’s growing hypersonic arsenal. Of the six new weapons Putin unveiled last March, CNBC learned that two of them, a hypersonic glide vehicle and air-launched cruise missile, will be ready for war by 2020.

The hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed Avangard, is designed to sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile. Once launched, it uses aerodynamic forces to sail on top of the atmosphere.

One U.S. intelligence report, according to a source, noted that the hypersonic glide vehicles were mounted to Russian-made SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles — and one test featured a mock warhead.

Previous intelligence reports, which were curated last spring, calculate that Avangard is likely to achieve initial operational capability by 2020, a significant step that would enable the Kremlin to surpass the U.S. and China in this regard.

The hypersonic cruise missile dubbed “Kinzhal,” which means “dagger” in Russian, has been tested at least three times and was mounted and launched 12 times from a Russian MiG-31 fighter jet.

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US slaps sanctions on Venezuela bank Bandes after Guaido aide’s arrest

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro meets with UN chief Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations headquarters in New York on July 28, 2015.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro meets with UN chief Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations headquarters in New York on July 28, 2015.

The United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s development bank Bandes, a day after the Trump administration warned there would be consequences for the arrest of opposition leader Juan Guaido’s top aide.

The U.S. Treasury said it was slapping the sanctions on the Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, including its subsidiaries in Uruguay and Bolivia.

“(President Nicolas) Maduro and his enablers have distorted the original purpose of the bank … as part of a desperate attempt to hold onto power,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing the action.

Guaido, who invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency in January, has accused Bandes of being used by officials of Maduro’s government to steal funds.

The U.S. Treasury said Maduro tried to move $1 billion out of Venezuela through Banco Bandes Uruguay in early 2019.

Bandes has received billions of dollars over the past decade from the China Development Bank, in exchange for oil, which the Venezuelan government used to fund infrastructure projects.

The sanctions freeze assets belonging to the bank and its subsidiaries, and prevent U.S. citizens from any dealings with Bandes.

The announcement comes after Venezuelan authorities detained Guaido’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, on Thursday in a pre-dawn raid, sparking vows of reprisals from the United States, which backs Guaido.

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