Taiwan’s Tsai confirms request to buy new US fighters, tanks

Taiwan’s Tsai confirms request to buy new US fighters, tanks
Taiwan’s arms requests are carefully reviewed to ensure they suit ‘Taiwan’s actual needs,’ Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said. (Reuters)
Updated 28 March 2019

Taiwan’s Tsai confirms request to buy new US fighters, tanks

Taiwan’s Tsai confirms request to buy new US fighters, tanks
  • Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said requests have been submitted for F-16V fighters and M1 Abrams tanks
  • Taiwan is stepping-up training as it prepared to transition to an all-volunteer force

BEIJING: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said her government has asked to purchase advanced new fighter jets and tanks from the US.
If approved, the move could set off new tensions between the US and China, which considers Taiwan its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary. Speaking during a visit to Hawaii on Wednesday, Tsai said requests have been submitted for F-16V fighters and M1 Abrams tanks.
The new weaponry would “greatly enhance our land and air capabilities, strengthen military morale, and show to the world the US commitment to Taiwan’s defense,” Tsai said.
The US is Taiwan’s main supplier of defensive weapons, despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties. The F-16V is the most advanced version of the plane that already forms the backbone of Taiwan’s air forces, while the M1 Abrams would mark a significant upgrade from the aging, refurbished models the army now uses. Reports say Taiwan is seeking 66 of the planes.
Taiwan’s arms requests are carefully reviewed to ensure they suit “Taiwan’s actual needs,” Tsai said.
“We are also investing heavily into training as well as modernizing our defense strategies to prioritize the use of asymmetrical capabilities, so that they more closely correspond with the realities of the threat we face,” Tsai said. “Altogether, I hope that these actions will ensure that the people of Taiwan remain able to choose our own futures, free of coercion.”
Tsai, who says she will seek a second four-year term next year, said Taiwan was also stepping-up training as it prepared to transition to an all-volunteer force and pointed to three consecutive years of defense budget increases.
“These funds have been directed into programs that will make a real difference in Taiwan’s defense, including asymmetrical capabilities,” she said.
Tsai’s unofficial Hawaii visit comes at the end of a trip to the Pacific island nations of Palau, Nauru, and the Marshall Islands, three of Taiwan’s dwindling number of allies that now total just 17 as Beijing seeks to increase Taiwan’s international isolation. The sides separated amid civil war in 1949.
Beijing has cut contacts with Tsai’s government over Tsai’s refusal to endorse its claim that Taiwan is a part of China. It has also stepped up efforts at military intimidation, such as circling the island with bombers and fighters in what are officially termed training missions.
Elsewhere in remarks carried by satellite link to the conservative Washington think tank the Heritage Foundation, Tsai said she found developments in Hong Kong “deeply concerning.” China has touted Hong Kong as a future model Taiwan under what it calls “one country, two systems.”
Critics say the semi-autonomous territory’s civil liberties have been gradually eroded since it was handed over from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
“Hong Kong is a reminder that all politicians in Taiwan, regardless of politically parties, should carefully avoid falling into a trap laid by China, which includes economic incentives and other promises but ultimately leads to the same destination that is one country two system,” Tsai said.


Security should have confronted Manchester bomber: inquiry

Security should have confronted Manchester bomber: inquiry
Updated 17 June 2021

Security should have confronted Manchester bomber: inquiry

Security should have confronted Manchester bomber: inquiry
  • The attack, as concert-goers were leaving the show, was perpetrated by 22-year-old Salman Abedi
  • Inquiry heard that an officer from British Transport Police was supposed to be present in the foyer of the arena at the show’s end

LONDON: Security teams at Britain’s Manchester Arena “should have prevented or minimized” the impact of the 2017 terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert that killed 22 people, a public inquiry found Thursday.
The attack, as concert-goers were leaving the show, was perpetrated by 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent.
In a report examining security measures at the venue in northwest England, inquiry chairman John Saunders said Arena operator SMG, security provider Showsec and British Transport Police all missed opportunities to either prevent or mitigate the attack, which took place on May 22, 2017.
“The security arrangements for the Manchester Arena should have prevented or minimized the devastating impact of the attack,” he wrote.
“Salman Abedi should have been identified on 22nd May 2017 as a threat by those responsible for the security of Arena and a disruptive intervention undertaken.
“Had that occurred, I consider it likely that Salman Abedi would still have detonated his device, but the loss of life and injury is highly likely to have been less,” he added.
The inquiry had heard that an officer from British Transport Police was supposed to be present in the foyer of the arena at the end of the show, where the bomb was detonated, but nobody was there.
A Showsec security guard also told the inquiry that he had a “bad feeling” when he saw Abedi around five minutes before the attack, but did not approach him for fear of being called a racist.
“I felt unsure about what to do,” said Kyle Lawler, who was aged 18 at the time of the attack.
“I did not want people to think I am stereotyping him because of his race.”
Lawler said he had tried to radio the control room, but that he gave up as he could not get through due to radio traffic.
A member of the public had reported Abedi, who was dressed in black and carrying a large rucksack, to security 15 minutes before he detonated the bomb, packed with 3,000 nuts and bolts.
Abedi’s brother was last year jailed for life for playing an “integral part” in the attack, that also injured hundreds.
The Daesh group-inspired suicide bombing targeted crowds of mostly young people.
The youngest victim was aged just eight. Others included parents who had come to pick up their children.


Sweden govt set to lose confidence vote: parties

Sweden govt set to lose confidence vote: parties
Updated 17 June 2021

Sweden govt set to lose confidence vote: parties

Sweden govt set to lose confidence vote: parties
  • Sweden’s minority government, took power in 2019 after months of political struggles
  • To secure power it inked a deal with two center-left parties

STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s minority government could be toppled next week after a group of four parties in parliament announced Thursday they would back a no confidence vote, potentially triggering a snap election.

The far-right Sweden Democrats party announced it was calling for a motion of no confidence for Monday after the Left Party earlier warned it would seek a similar move over a dispute on rent controls for newly constructed apartments.

“There is now a majority in parliament that wants to dismiss the prime minister,” Henrik Vinge, parliament group leader for the Sweden Democrats, told a press conference.

Vinge said they hoped the government would fall a year ahead of the next general election.

Both the conservative Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats followed suit, securing a parliamentary majority for the no confidence motion against the government of Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

“We were against the Lofven government when they took power. We were against the Lofven government then, we are against the Lofven government now,” Ebba Busch, party leader of the Christian Democrats, told a press conference.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson echoed this sentiment in a post to social media.

“Our opinion is very clear, this government should never have taken office,” Kristersson wrote in a post to Facebook.

Speaker of the house, Andreas Norlen, confirmed in a statement the vote would be held on Monday.

Sweden’s minority government, took power in 2019 after months of political struggles to secure support for a government following the 2018 election.

To secure power it inked a deal with two center-left parties, and was propped up by the Left Party.

The deal included liberal market reforms, including a government inquiry into allowing landlords to freely set rents for new apartments.

Several of these reforms have irked the Left Party, and after multiple calls on the government to abandon the “market rents,” party leader Nooshi Dadgostar said earlier on Thursday that they were looking for support among other parties for a vote of no confidence.

“Someone has to stand up for Sweden’s tenants,” Dadgostar told a press conference adding that it wasn’t an “easy announcement.”

Speaking in parliament, Lofven responded by saying it was “not responsible” to call for the vote.

Lofven has announced a press conference of his own at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT).


UK refugee charity fears for future

UK refugee charity fears for future
Updated 17 June 2021

UK refugee charity fears for future

UK refugee charity fears for future
  • Lack of funding for Refugee Kindness could prevent it helping thousands
  • Founder set up charity after witnessing plight of Syrian family

LONDON: A charity that provides household items, clothing and other support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK has said it fears for its future.

Refugee Kindness — based in Wrexham, Wales — is a young charity that grew from a spur-of-the-moment decision by a Welsh barrister to donate her spare furniture to a local Syrian family.

Rachel Watkin said after making that donation, she realized just how many basic necessities refugees and asylum seekers are in need of.

She set up a Facebook group to encourage other locals to do the same, and founded her charity later after witnessing the plight of one Syrian family.

“When they came to the house, it turned out there were a lot of items they didn’t have. They didn’t have games for their kids to play with ... they didn’t have nice things like pillows and rugs, they didn’t have as much cutlery as the rest of us would have, they didn’t have a fridge freezer,” she said.

“I just thought it was so imbalanced really, so unfair that we have this mass of stuff in our garages that we want to get rid of and they had so little. I knew there must be lots of families like them.”

The charity now has over 2,000 donors and has helped 54 families — but the work is becoming too much for Watkin to handle alone.

More than 20,000 Syrians have been granted asylum and resettled in the UK in the last five years.

Despite Britain taking a relatively low number of refugees, Watkins said demand for what her charity offers has “exploded,” and now it is struggling financially to provide for them. 

Refugee Kindness, less than a year old, has run into bureaucratic problems that could endanger its entire future.

Most charities, Watkin said, need to exist for two years before unlocking access to wider funding.

“When I first set it up it didn’t need funding, but now we have so many families and we’re doing more things, it’s become more difficult,” she added.

“People have been generous and they’ve given us money, but we only have about £1,500 ($2,091).”

A 2020 report by the British Red Cross found that asylum seekers granted refugee status often face significant financial hardships as their Home Office support ends and they are expected to quickly adapt to mainstream life in the UK.

“New refugees must complete a number of complex tasks which, research by the British Red Cross and other organisations has shown, are almost impossible to achieve in 28 days,” said the report.

“These include opening a bank account, finding a job and/or applying for mainstream benefits (and receiving the first wages or payment), and finding and moving into new accommodation.”

While Refugee Kindness cannot assist in solving all these problems, if it receives more funding its donations can ease the transition.

Syrian refugee Khawla said the donations she received, including a sofa, helped her family settle in.

“When we first came here it was difficult, but now it’s good. They helped a lot and I’m thankful,” she added.

Watkins said: “We’ve given it the deadline of September to secure funding ... Beyond that, I don’t know.”


France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers

France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers
Updated 17 June 2021

France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers

France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers
  • Vaccination rate among health workers in care homes is lagging behind that of the general adult population
  • New daily virus infections in France are projected to fall to 2,000 within a week

PARIS: COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccinations could become compulsory for health workers if they do not drop their resistance to getting the jab, France’s health minister warned Thursday.

The threat came on the first day that people in France were authorized to be outdoors without wearing face masks, as vaccinations pick up and new COVID-19 cases drop.

The vaccination rate among health workers in care homes, however, is lagging behind that of the general adult population, 60 percent of which have now received at least one COVID-19 jab, Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

He made a “solemn appeal” to health workers, especially in care homes, to “take the plunge.”

“If by the end of the summer there is no improvement we will have to consider making vaccinations for those specific groups obligatory,” Veran told BFM television.

“It is necessary and ethical to get vaccinated when you are in contact with vulnerable populations,” he added.

The coronavirus affected elderly people in care homes particularly severely, especially during the first and second virus waves last year before vaccinations became widespread and social distancing the norm.

Veran would not be drawn on a possible similar move for hospital staff, saying that “we’ll wait and see.”

New daily virus infections in France, at just over 3,000 on Wednesday, are projected to fall to 2,000 within a week and to 1,000 by the end of the month, Veran said.

A daily 11:00 p.m. curfew will be lifted on Sunday, a week ahead of schedule.

Although people can now take off masks when outdoors, there are exceptions including when on busy shopping streets or at crowded events. Masks must still be worn indoors and on public transport.


Two dead in shooting in German town, shooter on the run

Two dead in shooting in German town, shooter on the run
Updated 17 June 2021

Two dead in shooting in German town, shooter on the run

Two dead in shooting in German town, shooter on the run

BERLIN: A man and a woman were killed in a shooting spree in the centre of the western German town of Espelkamp, and the shooter was on the run, police said on Thursday.
Bild newspaper quoted police as saying that the situation appeared to be a case of someone "running amok". It said special police commandos were attending the scene.
Espelkamp, a town of some 20,000 people, is in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.