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Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan, French parliamentary elections, the world this week, and more news worth following from around the world.

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan, French parliamentary elections, the world this week, and more news worth following from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Discord at Shangri-La

The United States and China traded barbs in Singapore over the weekend as their defense chiefs asserted their positions on Taiwan at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, in a stern speech on Sunday, said a Taiwanese declaration of independence would be a “path to death” and continued Beijing’s tough rhetoric on the island, which it considers part of its territory.

“No one should ever underestimate the resolve and ability of the Chinese armed forces to safeguard its territorial integrity,” Wei said. “We will fight at all cost, and we will fight to the very end. This is the only choice for China.”

He also derided U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific, saying it was meant “to hijack countries in our region and target one specific country.”

“It is a strategy to create conflict,” Wei added.

Wei’s comments came a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addressed the forum, stating the U.S. determination to uphold the status quo regarding Taiwan and providing thinly veiled warnings to China in his remarks about the war in Ukraine.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is what happens when oppressors trample the rules that protect us all. It’s what happens when big powers decide that their imperial appetites matter more than the rights of their peaceful neighbors. And it’s a preview of a possible world of chaos and turmoil that none of us would want to live in,” Austin said.

The two men apparently adopted a softer tone during their first face-to-face meeting last Friday. U.S.-China meetings have not gone particularly well in the recent past, but a Chinese government spokesperson deemed the sit-down “positive and constructive.”

Despite the tough tone of Wei’s speech, Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Foreign Policy that the two officials “didn’t break new ground” but that other disclosures during a question-and-answer session did depart from the usual Beijing orthodoxy, with Wei effectively confirming that China had tested a hypersonic missile last year and saying that an Indian incursion into Chinese territory prompted the deadly 2020 skirmish in the Galwan Valley on the Chinese-Indian border.

Behind the scenes, tensions between the two global powers seem to be increasing. Bloomberg reported on Sunday that Chinese officials have for months been asserting to U.S. officials that the Taiwan Strait does not constitute international waters. The United States and its allies routinely send naval vessels through the strait to assert freedom of navigation rights, as they also do in the South China Sea.

The tensions come as U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the United States would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan, an assertion that contravenes stated U.S. policy toward the island—and has been walked back by White House staff since. (For more on the debate on the utility of U.S. “strategic ambiguity” regarding Taiwan, read FP columnists Emma Ashford and Matthew Kroenig’s recent It’s Debatable column on the topic.)

As FP’s Jack Detsch reports from Singapore, Taiwan was not the only issue up for discussion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky took the virtual center stage at the Asia-focused Shangri-La Dialogue and sought to make the case to Asian nations to join the predominantly Western front against Russia’s invasion.

Wei, speaking the day after Zelensky, kept up Beijing’s Russia-leaning stance on Ukraine, alleging that the United States was adding fuel to the fire in support of Ukraine’s defense rather than engaging Russia in peace efforts.

“That may have played well at home, but it was a remarkably tone-deaf comment to an audience that had loudly applauded a speech by Zelensky the day prior,” Glaser said.

The World This Week

Tuesday, June 14: The first flight of Britain’s new program to repatriate asylum-seekers to Rwanda is scheduled to depart amid ongoing legal appeals.

Wednesday, June 15: NATO defense ministers gather for a two-day meeting in Brussels.

Thursday, June 16: Russia is set to publish its GDP figures for the first quarter of 2022.

Sunday, June 19: Colombia holds its presidential election run-off, with left-wing Gustavo Petro facing off against right-wing populist Rodolfo Hernández.

What We’re Following Today

Britain’s new protocol. The British government is expected to publish legislation today that unilaterally amends the Northern Ireland protocol, a trade measure agreed between the European Union and United Kingdom as a compromise following Brexit. The pending legislation, seen as a way for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to regain some Conservative Party support following last week’s no-confidence vote, which he won by a thinner-than-expected margin. The move has been criticized by opposition leaders for potentially breaking international law and risking a trade war with the EU.

Macron’s majority. French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition is on course to win the most seats in the French parliament following Sunday’s first-round elections, according to initial projections. Macron’s Ensemble alliance is expected to fall short of an absolute majority following a strong performance from Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left-wing coalition.

According to official results, Mélenchon’s Nupes bloc has won slightly more votes than Ensemble (26.1 percent vs. 25.9 percent) but will likely hold significantly fewer seats. Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally won roughly 19 percent of votes. Turnout was extremely low—at just 47.5 percent. Voters return to the polls next Sunday for the final round.

Keep an Eye On

North Korea’s foreign policy. North Korea named a new foreign minister on Saturday, promoting Choe Son Hui to the position following her role as a top nuclear negotiator. Choe, the first woman to hold the title, is likely to have her hands full as Pyongyang moves closer to a new nuclear test.

Iraq’s parliament. Iraqi lawmakers aligned with Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr resigned their positions en masse on Sunday on the urging of Sadr as efforts continue to break a parliamentary deadlock following last October’s presidential election. The decision paves the way for a resurgence of Sadr’s rivals, the Iran-backed Coordination Framework, as Iraqi law gives resigned seats to the second-place candidate, a measure that favors the pro-Iran coalition.

Odds and Ends

Russia’s former McDonald’s outlets returned to business under a new name and new ownership on Sunday, rebranded as “Vkusno & Tochka” (Tasty and That’s It). The stores opened their doors for the first time following the fast food giant’s exit over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As well as the new branding, the stores have some stark differences from their previous owners: Coca-Cola is unavailable amid the beverage company’s Russia boycott, and core offerings such as the Big Mac are not on the menu—although the new owner, Siberian businessman Alexander Govor, plans to create a similar product.

Even though the changes may dismay customers used to the uniformity of McDonald’s offerings, there is some consolation: A double cheeseburger sells for 30 rubles cheaper than it did at the U.S. chain.