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

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.


South Korean justice minister resigns during finance probe

Updated 14 October 2019

South Korean justice minister resigns during finance probe

  • Cho said in a statement he was offering to resign to reduce the burden on President Moon Jae-in
  • The conservative Liberty Korea Party criticized Moon for sticking with Cho for too long

SEOUL: South Korea’s justice minister resigned Monday, citing the political burden of an investigation into alleged financial crimes and academic favors surrounding his family, a scandal that has rocked Seoul’s liberal government and spurred huge protests.

Cho Kuk has denied wrongdoing. But the law professor who for years cultivated an anti-elitist reformist image said he couldn’t remain a government minister while ignoring the pain his family was enduring.

Huge crowds of Cho’s supporters and critics have marched in South Korea’s capital in recent weeks, demonstrating how the months-long saga over Cho has deepened the country’s political divide.

Cho said in a statement he was offering to resign to reduce the burden on President Moon Jae-in, whose office later said he accepted Cho’s offer.

Cho’s resignation came as state prosecutors continued a criminal investigation into his university professor wife, brother and other relatives over allegations of dubious financial investments, fraud and fake credentials for his daughter that may have helped her enter a top university in Seoul and a medical school in Busan.

“I concluded that I should no longer burden the president and the government with issues surrounding my family,” Cho said in an emailed statement. “I think the time has come that the completion of efforts to reform the prosecution would only be possible if I step down from my position.”

Moon’s liberal Minjoo Party and Cho’s supporters, who occupied streets in front of a Seoul prosecutors office for the fourth-straight weekend Saturday, have claimed the investigation is aimed at intimating Cho, who has pushed for reforms that include curbing the power of prosecutors.

South Korea’s main opposition party called Cho’s resignation offer “too late” and criticized Moon for causing turmoil with a divisive appointment.

In a meeting with senior aides, Moon said he was “very sorry for consequentially creating a lot of conflict between the people” over his hand-picked choice but also praised Cho’s “passion for prosecutorial reform and willingness to calmly withstand various difficulties to get it done.”

Moon had stood firmly by Cho, whom he appointed a month ago despite parliamentary resistance. But the controversy dented the popularity of Moon and his ruling liberal party in recent polls, an alarming development for the liberals ahead of parliamentary elections in April.

The conservative Liberty Korea Party criticized Moon for sticking with Cho for too long. “Is President Moon Jae-in listening to people’s voices only after his and his ruling party’s approval ratings face the danger of a nosedive?” the conservative Liberty Korea Party said in a statement.

In South Korea, prosecutors have exclusive authority to indict and seek warrants for criminal suspects and exercise control over police investigative activities. They can also directly initiate criminal investigations even when there’s no complaint.

Critics say such powers are excessive and have prompted past conservative governments to use the prosecution as a political tool to suppress opponents and carry out vendettas.

The controversy over Cho has struck a nerve in a country facing widening inequality and brutally competitive school environments and has tarnished the image of Moon, who vowed to restore faith in fairness and justice after replacing President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached and jailed for corruption.

Recent polls indicate Moon’s popularity has sank to the lowest levels since he took office. In a survey of some 1,000 South Koreans released last Friday by Gallup Korea, 51% of the respondents negatively rated Moon’s performance in state affairs, compared to 43% who said he was doing a good job. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.