Taiwan holds military drills, vows to defend against Chinese aggression

A CM-11 Brave Tiger tank fires during the live-fire military exercise in Pingtung, Taiwan on Thursday, May 30, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 30 May 2019

Taiwan holds military drills, vows to defend against Chinese aggression

  • More than 3,000 soldiers took part in the live-fire drill in the southern county of Pingtung
  • Fighter jets landed on Taiwan’s main highway and air raid drills shut major cities

PINGTUNG, Taiwan: Taiwan’s air, sea and land forces conducted a drill to repel an invading force on Thursday, as its defense minister pledged to defend the self-ruled island against China’s rising military threat.
Fighter jets launched strikes and warships opened fired to destroy an enemy beachhead, while more than 3,000 soldiers took part in the live-fire drill in the southern county of Pingtung.
During annual military exercises across the island this week, fighter jets have landed on Taiwan’s main highway and air raid drills have shut its major cities.
While it was just a mock exercise, Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa left no doubt where the greatest perceived threat lay.
“The military force of the Chinese Communist Party has continued to expand, without giving up the use of force to invade Taiwan,” Yen told reporters while observing the drill.
China sees Taiwan part of “one China” and has never renounced the use of force to bring the democratic island under its control.
Yen’s comments follow a spike in cross-strait tensions. During recent months, China’s military staged extensive drills with warships, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft near the island, moves Taipei denounced as intimidation.
Yen said it was Beijing’s intention to “destroy regional stability and cross-strait security.”
Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which include an escalating trade war and China’s muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.
Earlier this month, senior US and Taiwanese security officials held a rare meeting, a move that angered Beijing.
China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan, suspecting that its President Tsai Ing-wen is pushing for the island’s formal independence — a red line for Beijing.
Tsai repeatedly says she wants to maintain the status quo with China but will defend Taiwan’s security and democracy.

Poor air quality: Malaysia tells citizens to stay indoors

Updated 24 min 19 sec ago

Poor air quality: Malaysia tells citizens to stay indoors

  • Nearly 1,500 schools closed as haze continues to plague the country

KUALA LUMPUR: As Malaysia’s haze problem worsened on Wednesday, some areas of the country recorded readings above 200 on the Air Pollution Index (API), which officials told Arab News is considered “very unhealthy.”

More than a million primary and high-school students stayed home as 1,484 schools remained closed in seven states, including Selangor and Sarawak — the two worst-affected states. 

In some areas of Sarawak, API readings were above 300, which is considered hazardous to the environment and human health. 

The Ministry of Education advised all higher education institutions in the haze-affected states to postpone their classes, while some companies and institutions, including the Ministry of Youth and Sports, asked employees to work from home.

Responding to the worsening situation, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamad stressed that Malaysia must deal with the haze issue on its own.

“We will have to find ways to deal with the haze, through cloud seeding, asking people to stay at home, and school closures,” he said at a press conference in Putrajaya. 

The Malaysia government also stressed that it will take legal action against Malaysian companies that own estates and plantations outside Malaysia which have contributed to the problem. 

“We will ask them to put out the fires (they have set). If they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law that holds them responsible,” the 93-year-old Malaysian leader said.

The ASEAN Specialized Meteorological Centre reported that forest fires in Indonesia’s Sumatera and Kalimantan regions have intensified, leading to an increase in the haze across the Southeast Asian region. Those fires, coupled with the dry weather conditions in certain areas, mean the air quality is expected to continue to deteriorate. The general public have been advised to stay indoors and to wear facemasks if they do have to go outside.

Benjamin Ong, a Kuala Lumpur-based environmentalist told Arab News that many Malaysians are concerned about the ongoing and worsening issue of haze, which has become an annual occurrence despite efforts by Malaysia, Indonesia and other Southeast-Asian governments to tackle the transboundary problem. 

“Outdoor activities are badly affected, including environmental activities like hiking and outdoor classes for kids,” Ong said, adding that many families are especially concerned about the pollution’s impact on their children’s education.

“The haze has been hanging around for at least 20 years, but the root causes have never been systematically tackled,” he added. “Distribution of masks, school closures and cloud seeding are only treating the symptoms, so to speak, and do not in any way make society more resilient to haze if and when it returns.”