China urges US to ‘correct mistake’ on Taiwan

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2018
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China urges US to ‘correct mistake’ on Taiwan

BEIJING: China has called on the United States to “correct its mistake” after President Donald Trump approved new rules allowing top-level US officials to travel to Taiwan to meet with their Taipei counterparts.
US representatives can already travel to democratic Taiwan and Taiwanese officials occasionally visit the White House, but meetings are usually low profile to avoid offending China.
The “Taiwan Travel Act,” which Trump signed on Friday following its passage in the US Congress, encourages visits between US and Taiwanese officials “at all levels.”
Washington cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 in favor of Beijing under the “one China” policy. But it maintains trade relations with the island and sells it weapons, angering China.
China sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has long stated its desire for reunification.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the bill’s clauses, while not legally binding, “severely violate” the one China principle and send “very wrong signals to the ‘pro-independence’ separatist forces in Taiwan.”
“China is strongly opposed to that,” Lu said in a statement issued on Saturday.
“We urge the US side to correct its mistake, stop pursuing any official ties with Taiwan or improving its current relations with Taiwan in any substantive way,” he said.
The new US law describes Taiwan as “a beacon of democracy” in Asia, and states that “Taiwan’s democratic achievements inspire many countries and people in the region.”
Trump’s signature, announced late on Friday — when the White House usually tries to bury news — comes amid increasing tensions between the mainland and the self-ruled island.
Beijing has cut off official communications with Taipei because President Tsai Ing-wen refuses to acknowledge the democratic island as part of “one China.”
The travel act also comes amid trade tensions between the United States and China as Trump mulls fresh measures that have raised fears of a tit-for-tat trade war.


Egypt denies Sinai battle is choking off food and medicine supplies

Updated 2 min 19 sec ago
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Egypt denies Sinai battle is choking off food and medicine supplies

CAIRO: An Egyptian military campaign to defeat Daesh militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula is choking essential food and medical supplies to thousands of residents in the desert region, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. The army denied the charge.
The New York-based organization warned of a wider humanitarian crisis if North Sinai continued to be cut off from the Egyptian mainland, saying the army’s actions “border on collective punishment.”
The army launched an operation in February to crush militants who have waged an insurgency that has killed hundreds of soldiers, police and residents over many years.
Air strikes and raids have killed scores of suspected militants since then, the military says, as it imposes curfews and tight movement restrictions around towns in North Sinai. The army has said it is winning the battle.
A military spokesman denied there were shortages, saying it was providing food and medical support throughout the areas it operated in, The HRW report had used “undocumented sources” in its report, he said.
“Thousands of food parcels have been and are being provided to people in North Sinai,” Col. Tamer Al-Rifai, the spokesman, added.
International news outlets are prevented from traveling to North Sinai to report.
Residents said food supplies, medicine and fuel were insufficient and that movement restrictions meant most people were unable to leave the region, HRW reported.
“A counter-terrorism operation that imperils the flow of essential goods to hundreds of thousands of civilians is unlawful and unlikely to stem violence,” HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said.
The report said authorities had banned the sale of petrol and cut communication lines, water and electricity in some areas of North Sinai including near the border with the Gaza Strip.
Residents told Reuters last month they often waited for hours for bread handouts which were not guaranteed to arrive.
Defeating the militants and restoring security after years of unrest that followed Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising has been a promise of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who was re-elected in March in a landslide victory against no real opposition.
El-Sisi’s critics say he has presided over Egypt’s worst crackdown on dissent. Supporters say such measures are needed to bring stability and improve the country’s hard-hit economy.
In Sinai, analysts and foreign diplomats say heavy-handed military tactics including air strikes and demolitions of populated areas have failed to defeat the insurgency.