Taiwan not intimidated by Chinese military drills: president

President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday that Taiwan ‘will not make any compromise on our territory for even one inch.’ (Reuters)
Updated 16 April 2019

Taiwan not intimidated by Chinese military drills: president

  • China’s People’s Liberation Army said its warships, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft had conducted ‘necessary drills’ around Taiwan on Monday
  • Taiwan scrambled jets and ships to monitor the Chinese forces

TAIPEI: Taiwan is not intimidated by China’s military drills this week, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday, after the latest Chinese military maneuvers were denounced by a senior US official as “coercion” and a threat to stability in the region.
China’s People’s Liberation Army said its warships, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft had conducted “necessary drills” around Taiwan on Monday, though it described them as routine.
“We will not make any compromise on our territory for even one inch. We always hold on tight to our democracy and freedom,” Tsai told reporters at an event to mark Taiwan-US ties in Taipei, adding US arm sales to Taiwan would help reinforce the capability of Taiwan’s Air Force.
Tsai was speaking at a forum co-hosted by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to mark the 40th anniversary of Taiwan-US ties, following Washington’s decision to ditch formal recognition of Taiwan in favor of China in 1979.
Taiwan scrambled jets and ships to monitor the Chinese forces on Monday, its defense ministry said, accusing Beijing of “trying to change the status quo of the Taiwan Strait.”
China has repeatedly carried out what it calls “island encirclement patrols” in the past few years.
A delegation led by former US speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, is in Taipei to mark 40 years since the signing of the Taiwan Relations Act, which governs US-Taiwan relations, and to reaffirm Washington’s commitment.
Ryan said the United States considers any military threat to Taiwan a concern and urged China to stop, saying the moves were counterproductive.
The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.
China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan. Beijing suspects Taiwan’s president is pushing for the island’s formal independence, a red line for China which has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo with China but will defend Taiwan’s security and democracy.
The visit by US officials comes just weeks after Tsai said the United States was responding positively to Taipei’s requests for new arms sales to bolster its defenses in the face of growing pressure from China.
Last month, Washington sent Navy and Coast Guard ships through the narrow strait separating the island from the mainland, part of an increase in the frequency of US movement through the strategic waterway to show support for Taipei.


Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

Updated 45 min 34 sec ago

Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

  • Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky
  • Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much

WASHINGTON: A senior US diplomat directly implicated President Donald Trump Wednesday in a scheme to force Ukraine to probe a political rival, in bombshell testimony to a televised impeachment hearing.
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told lawmakers he followed the president’s orders in seeking a “quid pro quo” deal for Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden in exchange for a White House summit.
Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky for the investigation and that top officials in the White House and State Department knew about it.
The unexpectedly damning testimony drew a sharp backlash from Trump who tweeted: “This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!.”
Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much, despite the senior diplomat having donated $1 million to his inauguration and testifying that he had spoken to the president some 20 times while ambassador.
Democrats said Sondland’s seven hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee had bolstered their case for Trump’s impeachment for what they have labeled “extortion.”
“Today’s testimony is among the most significant evidence to date,” said committee chairman Adam Schiff.
“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes or misdemeanors.”
A succession of Democrats hoping to win the nomination to take on Trump in next year’s election also said the testimony had strengthened the case for impeachment as the issue dominated the opening exchanges in their latest televised primary debate.
Sondland said Trump directed him and two other senior diplomats to work with Giuliani.
From early in the year, Giuliani mounted a pressure campaign on Zelensky’s government to investigate Biden over his son Hunter’s ties to a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and to probe a conspiracy theory espoused by Trump that Ukraine helped Democrats against him in 2016. Biden is one of the favorites to challenge Trump in next year’s presidential election.
“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma,” Sondland told the panel.
“Mr Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky.”
Far from being a “rogue” operation outside normal US diplomatic channels, Sondland told the hearing top officials — including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — were kept constantly informed.
“We followed the president’s orders,” he said.
Like Trump a multimillionaire developer with a chain of high-end hotels, Sondland, who wore a $55,000 Breguet white gold watch to the hearing, fended off pressure from both Democrats and Republicans.
He had not implicated the president in earlier private testimony, when he answered scores of questions by saying he could “not remember.”
But subsequent testimony by other witnesses which had further implicated him in the Ukraine pressure scheme had jolted his memory, he said on Wednesday.
While he confirmed the linkage between the investigations and a White House meeting between Zelensky and Trump, he would not attest to allegations that Trump froze $391 million in aid as well to Ukraine to add pressure on Ukraine.
“I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement” of the investigations, he said, contradicting testimony from two other diplomats.
In separate testimony, a Pentagon official appeared to undermine a key Republican defense in the impeachment battle, that Kiev did not even know until late August or even September about the July 18 aid freeze, rendering moot Democrats’ allegations that Trump had extorted Ukraine.
Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official in charge of Ukraine affairs, said Kiev voiced concern over a holdup in aid on July 25.
That was the same day that Trump told Zelensky in a phone call that he wanted a favor, asking for investigations into Biden specifically and the 2016 conspiracy theory.
“The Ukrainian embassy staff asked, ‘What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?” she told the committee.
At the White House, Trump denied making the demand of Zelensky, citing Sondland’s own recall of their September 9 phone call on the Ukraine issue.
Reading from large-print notes, he said that he told Sonderland: “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.”
“If this were a prizefight, they’d stop it!” he said of the inquiry.
Speaking at the Democrats’ debate, Biden dodged a question on the role of his son but said the testimony had shown that “Donald Trump doesn’t want me to be the nominee.”
And Bernie Sanders, another of the frontrunners for the nomination, said Trump had been shown to be “not only a pathological liar” but also “the most corrupt president in the modern history of America.”