More than 50 years of U.S.-China panda diplomacy will soon come to an end.
Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington. That story is coming up, but first, making headlines:
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted talks Wednesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in eastern Russia. The U.S. and South Korea have renewed warnings to North Korea not to provide munitions to Russia that could be used in the Ukraine war.
China said on Wednesday that Papal envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi will visit China for talks on resolving the conflict in Ukraine.
Taiwan conducted a public drill on nuclear emergencies Wednesday that highlighted detecting radiation levels, evacuating local residents and decontaminating wastewater.
Republican Speaker of the U.S. House Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, advancing an investigation concerning allegations that Biden had benefited from his son Hunter's foreign business dealings.
Biden wrapped up a visit to Vietnam on Monday, after meeting with Vietnamese government officials and business leaders and spotlighting new deals and partnerships between the two countries.
Thousands of soldiers from the United States, Indonesia, Australia and other allied forces on Monday took part in combat drills Sunday on the Indonesian island of Java.
The giant pandas that have been living at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington for 23 years will return to China by the end of this year. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias looks at the diplomatic moves that brought them to the United States and how politics and new conservation strategies could impact the species' future.
“Now I’m going to present this pair of giant pandas to the American people.”
Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling arrived in the United States in 1972. The rare gift from China was a sign of not only goodwill but also soft power after then-U.S. President Richard Nixon and first lady Pat Nixon had paid a historic state visit to the East Asian country.
In 1984, when the giant panda was declared an endangered species, Beijing began lending bears instead of gifting them. Ten-year agreements with a price tag of up to 10 million dollars were put in place.
“They decided that in order to help panda conservation in China, they would charge for the pandas. Zoos were willing to pay these kinds of prices because, as I said, they are a major attraction.”
Under one of those research and breeding agreements, which would later be extended several times, panda pair Mei Xiang and Tian Tian began living at the Smithsonian’s
National Zoo in Washington in December 2000. They are not the only pandas who have made the U.S. their temporary home.
“We had a pair at the Atlanta Zoo. The Memphis and San Diego pandas have already gone back to China.”
The Washington-based giant pandas and their cub are now also expected to depart to China by the end of this year.
There’s been some speculation that economic, political and security tensions between the U.S. and China might be at play in the non-extension of the agreements.
Chinese authorities did not reply to VOA’s repeated requests for comment.
The success of breeding and other conservation efforts in U.S. zoos, however, should not be overlooked, some analysts say. The zoos have helped improve the species’ status from “endangered” to “vulnerable.” But others say it is time for a new strategy.
“I think the public understands more now then it did back then that zoos are not necessarily the way you preserve animals in the wild.”
The Smithsonian's National Zoo is planning to hold several events in Washington to bid farewell to its pandas.
Zoo Atlanta has also announced its four giant pandas will return to China in 2024.
Veronica Balderas Iglesias, VOA News, Washington.
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I’m Chris Casquejo.
We leave you now at a new aquarium tunnel that’s wowing visitors in India's northern Chandigarh city. The tunnel showcases more than 250 species of fish.
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