After Taiwan buys arms, China holds military drills on southeast coast

Above, the Liaoning, China’s sole operational aircraft carrier, sails with other ships during a drill at sea in this April 2018 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 14 July 2019
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After Taiwan buys arms, China holds military drills on southeast coast

  • China’s defense ministry said that the People’s Liberation Army had in ‘recent days’ held the exercises
  • China’s southeast coast is one of the country’s most sensitive regions as it faces Taiwan across the narrow Taiwan Strait

BEIJING: China’s military recently carried out air and naval drills along its southeast coast, the Defense Ministry said on Sunday, following the latest arms sales from the United States to self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as a renegade province.
In a brief statement, and without giving an exact geographical location, the ministry said that the People’s Liberation Army had in “recent days” held the exercises.
“These drills were routine arrangements in accordance with annual plans for the military,” it said, without elaborating.
China’s southeast coast is one of the country’s most sensitive regions as it faces Taiwan across the narrow Taiwan Strait. China deems democratic Taiwan to be a wayward province, to be taken by force if needed.
On Friday, China said it would impose sanctions on US firms involved in a deal to sell $2.2 billion worth of tanks, missiles and related equipment to Taiwan, saying it harmed China’s sovereignty and national security.
That announcement came as Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was visiting New York on a transit stop to diplomatic allies in the Caribbean, a trip that has also infuriated Beijing, further straining Sino-US ties already affected by a bitter trade war.
In a statement on Sunday, Taiwan’s Presidential Office cited National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Tsai Ming-yen as saying President Tsai had spoken by telephone with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while she was in the United States and met with other senators and members of Congress, without naming them.
President Tsai said Taiwan and the United States can both forge even closer ties, and also thanked the United States for “the importance it attaches to the security of the Taiwan Strait” and the recently announced arms sale, the statement said.
President Tsai also promised the United States that in the future in the Indo-Pacific region, Taiwan will continue to play a responsible partnership role, and defend democratic values and peace and stability in the region with like-minded countries, the statement added.
Tsai has repeatedly warned of the threat from its giant neighbor China and has vowed to defend Taiwan’s security, democracy and way of life.
China has in recent years stepped up its military drills around Taiwan, including regularly flying what Beijing calls “island encirclement” exercises and sending warships into the waters around Taiwan.


Fuel leak halted blastoff for Indian rocket: reports

Updated 44 min 10 sec ago
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Fuel leak halted blastoff for Indian rocket: reports

  • The launch would have been the third to the moon this year; China put its Chang’e 4 mission on the lunar surface in January
  • Israel’s $100 million Beresheet crash-landed when it sought to become the first privately funded mission in April

SRIHARIKOTA, India: A fuel leak in the rocket engine forced India to abort the launch of its landmark Moon mission less than one hour before liftoff, media reports said Tuesday.
A committee of experts was looking into the causes of the problem that put back the bid to become just the fourth nation — after Russia, the United States and China — to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
Having halted the countdown 56 minutes and 24 seconds before the scheduled launch of Chandrayaan-2 — or Moon Chariot 2 — the Indian Space Research Organization gave no explanation for what it called a “technical snag” in the rocket nor a date for a new attempt.
“As a measure of abundant precaution Chandrayaan-2 launch has been called off,” ISRO said.
However, the Times of India quoted a senior mission scientist as saying there had been a leak in the GSLV-MkIII rocket’s helium fuel component.
“After filling helium, we found the pressure was dropping, indicating there was a leak,” the unnamed scientist said adding that it was possible there were “multiple leaks.”
“We were lucky that the mission did not enter the automatic launch sequence else all would have been lost,” the Hindustan Times quoted a senior ISRO official as saying.
The report added that scientists were “racing to plug the leak” in time for a new launch window at the end of July.
Experts said Indian mission chiefs would be cautious about trying a new liftoff.
“If the launch does not happen in the next 48 hours, it could be postponed for a few months until we get an opportune launch window,” said Ravi Gupta, a scientist formerly with the state-run Defense Research and Development Organization.
India has spent about $140 million on Chandrayaan-2, with most of it home-made. It is one of the cheapest in the crowded space race.
The launch would have been the third to the moon this year.
China put its Chang’e 4 mission on the lunar surface in January, while Israel’s $100 million Beresheet crash-landed when it sought to become the first privately funded mission in April.
A soft landing on the Moon would be a huge leap forward in India’s space program.
National pride is at stake as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to launch a crewed space mission by 2022.
It follows another high-profile but low-cost Indian mission — Mangalyaan — which put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2014 at a fraction of the cost of comparable projects by established space powers like the United States, which often cost billions of dollars.
The Indian mission involved a 2.4-ton orbiter that will circle the Moon for about a year taking images and testing the atmosphere. A lander named Vikram was to take the rover to the surface near the lunar South Pole.
The rover that was to be put on the surface on September 6 was to spend 14 days sending back data on rocks and soil.
India’s first lunar mission in 2008 did not land on the Moon but orbited it searching for water using radar.
New Delhi also has ambitions to land a probe on Mars, following the success of the Mangalyaan orbiter.
Lunar exploration has been in focus in recent months with the looming 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon, and US President Donald Trump giving NASA a 2024 deadline to return astronauts to the lunar surface.
str/tw/jah