Taiwan leader to visit Pacific allies to firm up ties

Beijing has stepped up diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, as she has refused to acknowledge its ‘one China’ policy. (Reuters)
Updated 12 March 2019

Taiwan leader to visit Pacific allies to firm up ties

  • Tsai Ing-wen will visit Palau, Nauru and Marshall Islands between March 21 and March 28
  • Beijing has stepped up diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai took office in 2016

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen will visit three Pacific nations this month to shore up ties, the foreign ministry said Tuesday, as Beijing seeks to lure away Taipei’s dwindling number of allies.
Tsai will visit Palau, Nauru and Marshall Islands between March 21 and March 28 — her second official visit to the Pacific amid growing concerns about China targeting countries in the region.
Beijing has stepped up diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai took office in 2016, as she has refused to acknowledge its “one China” policy.
The two sides split after a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still sees the self-ruling island as part of its territory to be brought back into the fold.
Five countries have switched official recognition to Beijing since Tsai became president, leaving Taipei with only 17 diplomatic allies including six in the Pacific.
Beijing has also made progress with the Vatican, Taiwan’s most powerful official ally and its only one in Europe, by signing a landmark agreement with the Holy See on the appointment of bishops last year.
A growing list of international companies have been pressured to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites while Taipei has also been blocked from attending a string of international events.
“Our allies in the Pacific have fully supported our participation in the international community,” deputy foreign minister Hsu Szu-chien told reporters.
“We believe that this visit will increase the understanding of Taiwan among the people in these countries ... and for Taiwanese people to get familiar with our good friends.”
Tsai, Taiwan’s first female leader, will also meet with Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, the first female head of state in the Pacific islands and join a women leaders’ conference hosted by the country, Hsu added.
He declined to give details about where Tsai will transit, saying it is “pending negotiation.”
Taiwan is typically low-key in announcing its leader’s specific itineraries, fearing China’s use of its power to disrupt.
Tsai’s last state visit was to Paraguay in August with US transits that prompted an official protest from Beijing after she gave a speech in Los Angeles — the first time in 15 years that a Taiwanese leader spoke publicly on US soil.
A Taiwanese bakery chain was pressured to declare its “firm support for the “one China” policy following boycott calls in China after serving Tsai at its shop in Los Angeles.


Indonesia arrests 22 militants following attack on minister

Updated 36 sec ago

Indonesia arrests 22 militants following attack on minister

  • Police were hunting other suspected militants, who mostly are participants in a social media chat group and are members of a local affiliate of Daesh
  • Chief Security Minister Wiranto is recovering in an army hospital in Jakarta

JAKARTA: At least 22 suspected militants plotting bombings and other attacks have been arrested in a counterterrorism crackdown following last week’s assault by a knife-wielding militant couple who wounded Indonesia’s top security minister, police said Monday.
National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told a news conference that the police’s elite anti-terror squad, known as Densus 88, seized 10 homemade pipe bombs believed to be intended for suicide attacks, chemicals for use in explosives, airsoft guns, knives, documents on planned attacks, extremist books, laptops and cellphones in separate raids.
Police were hunting other suspected militants, who mostly are participants in a social media chat group and are members of a local affiliate of the Daesh group known as the Jama’ah Anshorut Daulah, or JAD.
“Members of this group are free to conduct ‘amaliah’ independently, depending on the ability of those who want to carry out the attacks,” Prasetyo said, referring to an Arabic term for violent militant action against those perceived as enemies of Islam.
Chief Security Minister Wiranto, a local police chief and a third man were wounded in the broad daylight attack on Thursday by the couple in the western province of Banten. Wiranto, who goes by one name, is recovering in an army hospital in Jakarta and police were interrogating the couple, who were believed to be members of a JAD bloc in Banten.
Wiranto, a 72-year-old former armed forces chief, sustained two stab wounds in the stomach but was in stable condition. The attack came just over a week before the Oct. 20 inauguration of President Joko Widodo for his second five-year term.
Widodo has called the attackers terrorists and urged people to combat radicalism. He ordered government forces to hunt down the militant networks responsible for the attack on Wiranto.
Among the suspects arrested in the series of police raids following last week’s attack were a man and his 14-year-old son on the Indonesian resort island of Bali who plotted to make a bomb for an attack against the local police. They were arrested just hours after the attack against Wiranto.
The other suspects targeting state forces were captured by anti-terrorism commandos on the main island of Java, where the bustling capital, Jakarta, lies; in Banten; and in the provinces of Lampung, West Java and Jambi, as well as in Poso town, a hotbed of militants on Sulawesi island, Prasetyo said.
A suspect arrested in North Sulawesi province was affiliated with a Daesh group-aligned militant bloc called the East Indonesian Mujahidin group in Poso town. Identified by police only by his nom de guerre Jack Sparrow, he has pledged to carry out a bomb attack in the restive Indonesian province of Papua.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has carried out a sustained crackdown on Islamic militants since bombings on Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
The Jemaah Islamiyah military network, which was blamed for the Bali attacks, was neutralized following the arrests of hundreds of its militants and leaders. But new threats have emerged in recent times from Daesh group-inspired radicals who have targeted security forces and local “infidels” instead of Westerners.