The calm is deceptive.
A stubbled crater attests to a recent artillery barrage, but with its bustling streets and shops, the highland Ethiopian city of Mekelle has an air of relative peace.
Then the stories start spilling out.
Of the hospital that begins its days with an influx of bodies bearing gunshot or knife wounds — people killed, relatives and Red Cross workers say, for breaching the nightly curfew.
Of the young man who made the mistake of getting into a heated argument with a government soldier in a bar. Hours later, friends said, four soldiers followed him home and beat him to death with beer bottles.
Of a nightlong battle between government forces and local militia fighters in a nearby town and its aftermath, when soldiers returning to collect their dead stormed into nearby homes, firing indiscriminately.
obtained by The New York Times.
A spokesman for the Ahmara regional government told Bloomberg this week that it was pressing to officially incorporate western Tigray into Amhara.
an investigation was approved by the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
In testimony to Congress last week, the United States secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, called the situation in Tigray unacceptable and reiterated calls for Eritrean troops to withdraw immediately.
“They need to come out,” Mr. Blinken said.
Mr. Mulu, the interim leader of Tigray, cuts a lonely figure in Mekelle. An ethnic Tigrayan installed by Mr. Abiy nine days into the war, he lives and works from a suite at the Axum Hotel where he is trying to trying to restart Tigray’s war-battered bureaucracy.
Unlike Mr. Abiy, Mr. Mulu does not deny the Eritrean presence in Tigray. And in an interview he said he had initiated his own investigation into reported atrocities.
“It’s not acceptable that people should die like this,” he said. “But we need evidence. We have requested our security forces to investigate it.”
Tigray’s health services, once among the best in Ethiopia, have been ravaged. On Monday, Doctors Without Borders said that dozens of clinics across the region had been destroyed and plundered by soldiers, often deliberately.
quit his job over the reports of atrocities in Tigray, accusing Mr. Abiy of leading Ethiopia “down a dark path toward destruction and disintegration.”
Inside Tigray, soldiers detained Ethiopian translators and reporters working for four international outlets, including The Times, last month. The men were released without charge days later, but by then most foreign reporters had been forced to leave Tigray.
In such a fraught environment, even massacres are contested.
Mr. Abiy’s officials frequently cite a massacre in Mai Kadra, a town in western Tigray, on Nov. 9, as an example of T.P.L.F. war crimes. Witnesses cited in an Amnesty International report blamed the deaths on Tigrayan fighters.
with a reputation for brutality, and insisted that the majority of victims were Tigrayans.
Solomon Haileselassie, 28, said he watched the slaughter from his hiding place in a garbage dump. “I saw them cut off people’s legs and arms with axes,” he said.
Fisseha Tekle, Amnesty International’s Horn of Africa researcher, said the group had received credible new evidence of Tigrayan deaths, but stood by the finding that the majority of victims were Amharas.
Restricted access and the “high politicization of violence” make it hard to establish the truth about much of anything in Tigray, Mr. Fisseha added.
An employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Mekelle, Ethiopia.
The Biden administration has not exactly been rolling out the red carpet for this meeting. Yesterday it announced subpoenas against top Chinese companies suspected of threatening national security, and last week Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he believed the Chinese government was committing “genocide” against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. What does this tell us about how the administration plans to approach diplomacy toward China?
It tells you that the Biden administration is, so far, sounding a lot tougher on China than many expected. That should be no surprise. While the Republican talking point during the campaign was that Biden would give away the store to the Chinese, the history of Biden and his top foreign policy aides, Blinken and Sullivan, suggests a very different approach. They are focused on the technological competition with China, the threat of continuing cyberattacks (and China is believed to be behind one of the biggest in recent weeks, aimed at Microsoft systems), and new forms of military competition.
As Sullivan pointed out in an essay published last year, it’s possible that China is looking to follow the American model from 130 years ago, building up its navy and expanding its reach, to push us farther and farther east in the Pacific. But it is equally possible that its strategy is to deploy its 5G networks around the world, make nations dependent on its aid, its infrastructure projects and its vaccines, and spread influence that way. Or it may try both. In any case, we now have a full-scope competitor — an economic and technological competitor and a military adversary.
The subpoenas that Biden’s Commerce Department served to the Chinese companies were sent out under a Trump administration policy, which allows the executive branch to intervene on sales of foreign-made communications equipment if national security is seen as at risk. Would you say U.S.-China relations represent a rare area in which Biden is not seeking a hard break from his predecessor’s policies?
Certainly the Biden team has not walked away from the instruments of power exercised by Trump; I think it realizes that Trump accurately identified the importance of addressing the China challenge. The Biden camp just believes he confronted it the wrong way. Trump thought he could ban Chinese technologies, and impose sanctions on the country until it came to the bargaining table.
But China is too big to sanction effectively. And at the end of the day, the U.S. has to innovate and produce competitive products. To the Biden team, that means we need our own answer to 5G networks, because right now there is no American-made alternative. It means we need to make advances in semiconductors and artificial intelligence, even if that requires some innovative, government-backed industrial policy.
SEOUL — As it ends its first high-level diplomatic tour of Asia on Thursday, the Biden administration is banking on international alliances in the region to help stem the growing threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles and nuclear capabilities.
But the country that is perhaps in the best position to influence Pyongyang is one that President Biden has increasingly viewed as an adversary: China.
Following meetings this week in South Korea and Japan, the administration finds itself facing a diplomatic stalemate of the kind that irritated former President Barack Obama and drove former President Donald J. Trump to declare his love for Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, in a manic but ultimately thwarted drive for a breakthrough.
At stake is the risk posed by North Korea’s weapons systems and its repressive domestic policies involving surveillance, torture and prison camps, which international officials have said amount to human rights violations. Recent attempts by the Biden administration to open a line of communication were rebuffed by North Korea, leaving American officials to appeal to its partners in the region to join a pressure campaign against Pyongyang.
chief financial and political benefactor, and Mr. Blinken acknowledged that Beijing “has a critical role to play” in any diplomatic effort with Pyongyang. He suggested China was also concerned about North Korea’s nuclear and missiles programs.
“China has a real interest in helping to deal with this,” Mr. Blinken said. “So we look to Beijing to play a role in advancing what is, I think, in everyone’s interests.”
Whether the United States can recruit Beijing to participate will be clearer after talks later on Thursday and on Friday in Anchorage, Alaska, when China’s top two diplomats meet with Mr. Blinken and the White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. American officials have billed the talks as a blunt exchange of policy views.
economic coercion in the Indo-Pacific region.
Mr. Blinken has previously described China as America’s “biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century,” and the Biden administration has issued stern warnings and financial sanctions against Beijing, including on Wednesday, in response to some of its actions.
repeatedly argued that a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula is possible, insisting that Mr. Kim is willing to give up his weapons and focus on economic growth should Washington provide the right incentives.
After meeting with the American envoys, Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong of South Korea said he hoped for an “early resumption of dialogue” between the United States and North Korea, and that the government in Seoul would continue to support Washington’s efforts to establish diplomatic contact with Pyongyang.
helped to bring Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim together for two summits. But after the second, in 2019, abruptly ended without an agreement on American sanctions relief or the pace of North Korean disarmament, Mr. Moon struggled to regain his relevance in negotiations. Last June, North Korea blew up the joint inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border, the first of a series of actions that threatened to reverse a fragile détente.
diatribe issued hours after the senior American envoys landed in Tokyo earlier this week, North Korea warned the Biden administration to “refrain from causing a stink.”
vowed to further advance his country’s nuclear capabilities, declaring that it would build new solid-fuel I.C.B.M.s and make its nuclear warheads lighter and more precise.
Analysts said Pyongyang was closely following this week’s trips by Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin to Tokyo and Seoul for clues to the Biden administration’s approach. It is expected that North Korea will decide after watching Washington whether to resume weapons tests and create a new cycle of tensions to gain leverage.
a fix ever since the North Korea-United States talks broke down.”
Mr. Blinken said the American posture toward North Korea would include a mix of regional pressure options and the potential for future diplomacy when the Biden administration’s current policy review is concluded, as soon as next month.
Mr. Aum, the North Korea expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said that the policy could include plying China to do more to rein in North Korea, potentially by deploying additional weapons systems in the region or conducting larger military exercises with South Korea — both of which would irritate Beijing.
China has largely urged North Korea and the United States to resolve the impasse themselves, although it has called for sanctions relief and a pause of American military exercises with Seoul in exchange for Pyongyang freezing its nuclear and missile tests.
“All parties should work together to sustain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, said this week. “China will continue to play a constructive role in this process.”
Steven Lee Myers and John Ismay contributed reporting from Seoul.
Such remarks have heartened traditional American allies and stirred anger in China, which has repeatedly called on the United States to abandon a confrontational approach. Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and Mr. Blinken are scheduled to meet the top Chinese diplomats, Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi, in Alaska beginning on Thursday.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, accused the United States of a “zero-sum mind-set” that was “doomed to end in the dustbin of history.”
“Those wearing colored lenses can easily lose sight of the right direction, and those entrenched in the Cold War mentality will bring harm to others and themselves,” Mr. Zhao said on Monday.
The United States has imposed sanctions against Chinese officials before under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which was approved by Congress and signed into law by Mr. Trump last year. Among other things, it authorizes the State Department to restrict designated officials from using American financial institutions.
Wang Chen, a veteran party leader who led the legislative changes adopted last week, is the most senior Chinese official targeted so far. The Trump administration previously imposed the sanctions on Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, the police chief and the justice secretary.
The ultimate impact on Chinese behavior has, so far, been minimal, but the latest designations significantly expand the number of officials targeted.
In all, the latest American sanctions would affect 14 vice chairmen of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which recently concluded its annual gathering in Beijing, and officials from the Hong Kong Police Force’s National Security Division, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the Office for Safeguarding National Security.
Now, with the Biden administration in place and with China growing increasingly assertive, Japan seems more willing to join with the United States in its unequivocal criticism of China’s actions.
Mr. Kishi, the defense minister, said that Japan could “absolutely not accept” China’s actions to increase tensions in the East and South China Seas, and indicated they were violating international laws.
Yet the Japanese foreign minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, was less overt in criticizing China.
While Mr. Blinken explicitly singled out China — and Myanmar, where the military staged a coup last month — for threatening “democracy, human rights and rule of law,” Mr. Motegi avoided mentioning China directly. He said that he welcomed the alliance for its role in protecting “peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.”
Analysts said Japan may temper its language because it has more to lose from confrontation with China.
“One big difference is their economic relationships with China,” said Narushige Michishita, vice president of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. “While the U.S. can live without China, Japan cannot. They have to find a common ground there.”
The high-level visit from Washington sought, in part, to remind Japan that it shares much common ground with the United States. That it was the first official trip overseas for both Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin since taking office was repeated several times on Tuesday to assure Japan of its value to the Biden administration.
The alliance with Japan never suffered as much damage under the Trump administration as U.S. partnerships in Europe. Mr. Abe maintained a close relationship with Mr. Trump and hosted him for two visits to Japan. Last October, when then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the two exchanged a fist bump that lasted 15 seconds.
On Tuesday, when Mr. Suga met with Mr. Austin and Mr. Blinken at his official residence, they all bowed — as is the custom in Japan.
Makiko Inoue contributed reporting from Toyko, and Steven Lee Myers from Seoul.