US military making plans in case Nancy Pelosi travels to Taiwan

US military making plans in case Nancy Pelosi travels to Taiwan
Officials said this week that a visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi would go beyond the usual safety precautions for trips to less risky destinations. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 27 July 2022

US military making plans in case Nancy Pelosi travels to Taiwan

US military making plans in case Nancy Pelosi travels to Taiwan
  • Military would increase its movement of forces and assets in the Indo-Pacific region if Pelosi travels to Taiwan
  • US President Joe Biden last week raised concerns about it, saying military thinks her trip is ‘not a good idea right now’

SYDNEY: US officials say they have little fear that China would attack Nancy Pelosi’s plane if she flies to Taiwan. But the US House speaker would be entering one of the world’s hottest spots where a mishap, misstep or misunderstanding could endanger her safety. So the Pentagon is developing plans for any contingency.
Officials told The Associated Press that if Pelosi goes to Taiwan — still an uncertainty — the military would increase its movement of forces and assets in the Indo-Pacific region. They declined to provide details, but said that fighter jets, ships, surveillance assets and other military systems would likely be used to provide overlapping rings of protection for her flight to Taiwan and any time on the ground there.
Any foreign travel by a senior US leader requires additional security. But officials said this week that a visit to Taiwan by Pelosi — she would be the highest-ranking US elected official to visit Taiwan since 1997 — would go beyond the usual safety precautions for trips to less risky destinations.
Asked about planned military steps to protect Pelosi in the event of a visit, US Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that discussion of any specific travel is premature. But, he added, “if there’s a decision made that Speaker Pelosi or anyone else is going to travel and they asked for military support, we will do what is necessary to ensure a safe conduct of their visit. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
China considers self-ruling Taiwan its own territory and has raised the prospect of annexing it by force. The US maintains informal relations and defense ties with Taiwan even as it recognizes Beijing as the government of China.
The trip is being considered at a time when China has escalated what the US and its allies in the Pacific describe as risky one-on-one confrontations with other militaries to assert its sweeping territorial claims. The incidents have included dangerously close fly-bys that force other pilots to swerve to avoid collisions, or harassment or obstruction of air and ship crews, including with blinding lasers or water cannon.
Dozens of such maneuvers have occurred this year alone, Ely Ratner, US assistant defense secretary, said Tuesday at a South China Sea forum by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. China denies the incidents.
The US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security issues, described the need to create buffer zones around the speaker and her plane. The US already has substantial forces spread across the region, so any increased security could largely be handled by assets already in place.
The military would also have to be prepared for any incident — even an accident either in the air or on the ground. They said the US would need to have rescue capabilities nearby and suggested that could include helicopters on ships already in the area.
Pelosi, D-Calif., has not publicly confirmed any new plans for a trip to Taiwan. She was going to go in April, but she postponed the trip after testing positive for COVID-19.
The White House on Monday declined to weigh in directly on the matter, noting she had not confirmed the trip. But President Joe Biden last week raised concerns about it, telling reporters that the military thinks her trip is “not a good idea right now.”
A Pelosi trip may well loom over a call planned for Thursday between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, their first conversation in four months. A US official confirmed plans for the call to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement.
US officials have said the administration doubts that China would take direct action against Pelosi herself or try to sabotage the visit. But they don’t rule out the possibility that China could escalate provocative overflights of military aircraft in or near Taiwanese airspace and naval patrols in the Taiwan Strait should the trip take place. And they don’t preclude Chinese actions elsewhere in the region as a show of strength.
Security analysts were divided Tuesday about the extent of any threat during a trip and the need for any additional military protection.
The biggest risk during Pelosi’s trip is of some Chinese show of force “gone awry, or some type of accident that comes out of a demonstration of provocative action,” said Mark Cozad, acting associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corp. “So it could be an air collision. It could be some sort of missile test, and, again, when you’re doing those types of things, you know, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong.”
Barry Pavel, director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, scoffed at US officials’ reported consideration of aircraft carriers and warplanes to secure the speaker’s safety. “Obviously, the White House does not want the speaker to go and I think that’s why you’re getting some of these suggestions.”
“She’s not going to go with an armada,” Pavel said.
They also said that a stepped-up US military presence to safeguard Pelosi risked raising tensions.
“It is very possible that ... our attempts to deter actually send a much different signal than the one we intend to send,” Cozad said. “And so you get into ... some sort of an escalatory spiral, where our attempts to deter are actually seen as increasingly provocative and vice versa. And that can be a very dangerous dynamic.”
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Beijing had repeatedly expressed its “solemn position” over a potential Pelosi visit. He told reporters that China is prepared to “take firm and strong measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Milley said this week that the number of intercepts by Chinese aircraft and ships in the Pacific region with US and other partner forces has increased significantly over the past five years. He said Beijing’s military has become far more aggressive and dangerous, and that the number of unsafe interactions has risen by similar proportions.
Those include reports of Chinese fighter jets flying so close to a Canadian air security patrol last month that the Canadian pilot had to swerve to avoid collision, and another close call with an Australian surveillance flight in late May in which the Chinese crew released a flurry of metal scraps that were sucked into the other plane’s engine.
US officials say that the prospects of an intercept or show of force by Chinese aircraft near Pelosi’s flight raises concerns, prompting the need for American aircraft and other assets to be nearby.
The US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group is currently operating in the western Pacific, and made a port call in Singapore over the weekend. The strike group involves at least two other Navy ships and Carrier Air Wing 5, which includes F/A-18 fighter jets, helicopters and surveillance aircraft.
Prior to pulling into port in Singapore, the strike group was operating in the South China Sea. In addition, another Navy ship, the USS Benfold, a destroyer, has been conducting freedom of navigation operations in the region, including a passage through the Taiwan Strait last week.


EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies

EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies
Updated 58 min 29 sec ago

EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies

EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies
  • The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that treatments containing pholcodine should be withdrawn from sale
  • "Use of pholcodine in the 12 months before general anaesthesia... is a risk factor for developing an anaphylactic reaction"

THE HAGUE: Cough medicines containing the chemical pholcodine should be banned due to the risk of potentially deadly allergic reactions in people under general anaesthetic, the European Union’s drug regulator said Friday.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that treatments containing pholcodine, which is used in adults and children to treat dry coughs, should be withdrawn from sale.
“Use of pholcodine in the 12 months before general anaesthesia... is a risk factor for developing an anaphylactic reaction” to muscle relaxants in the anaesthetic, the Amsterdam-based watchdog said.
Anaphylactic shock is a “sudden, severe and life-threatening allergic reaction,” it added.
Medicines with the chemical were “being withdrawn from the EU market and will therefore no longer be available by prescription or over the counter.”
Opioid-based pholcodine has been used as a cough medicine since the 1950s.
Medicines containing the chemical are currently authorized in the EU countries of Belgium, Croatia, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Slovenia, under brand names including Dimetane, Biocalyptol and Broncalene.
France had said in September that pholcodine could be banned due to the risk of allergies.
In April 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when a dry cough was one of the main symptoms of the disease, French authorities had recommended against the use of syrups with pholcodine.
The EMA in January had recommended updating packaging to warn of the risk of allergies, based on new data.


UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows

UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows
Updated 02 December 2022

UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows

UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows
  • Program aimed to resettle 5,000 vulnerable people during first year of operation
  • Second policy for Afghans who supported the UK military has helped 6,500 people

LONDON: One of the UK’s programs to house Afghan refugees has resettled just four people since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August last year, The Independent reported.
The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, one of two UK government programs for the urgent relocation of vulnerable Afghan refugees, aimed to resettle 5,000 people in Britain within its first year of operation.
However, Home Office data shows that while about 6,500 Afghans had been welcomed as part of a second scheme — the Afghan Relocation Assistance Policy — only four had been resettled as part of ACRS.
The more successful ARAP targeted Afghans who worked with and supported British military operations during the country’s near two-decade civil war.
ACRS, which launched in January, aims to help Afghans who “assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, freedom of speech, and rule of law,” the government said.
Unlike ARAP, the scheme receives referrals for vulnerable Afghans directly from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Due to safety issues within Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, many of the potential targets of the scheme have already fled to neighboring countries, including Pakistan and Iran.
They have since been left in limbo, however, awaiting responses from the UK government amid warning calls from the UNHCR.
A former high-ranking Afghan prosecutor who has resided in Pakistan since the fall of Kabul has been unable to relocate to the UK despite having family members there.
He said: “I am constantly terrified; I am worried that I will go to jail. I don’t know what is going to happen.”
His lawyer, Deena Patel, said that the prosecutor’s case had been referred to the UNHCR but that progress has been slow.
She added: “The number of four Afghans (relocated through ACRS) is highly believable. The prosecutor’s case was a strong case on merit.
“He should have been relocated under pathway two, but he’s been waiting months on end.
“This is just taking way too long. The UNHCR have to do a refugee assessment in each case, if they are not even speeding up this process then they are not going to make a referral to the Home Office.
“We know the crisis that this is causing — a large proportion of those arriving (in the UK) illegally are Afghans. What can you do if there is no legal route?”
The opposition Labour Party’s shadow immigration minister, Stephen Kinnock, said: “Britain owes a debt of gratitude to courageous Afghans who served British interests in Afghanistan, and it is a debt that must be honored.
“UN figures show that since last summer at least 160 Afghans have been killed through reprisal attacks.”
The government “must urgently clear the asylum backlog at home, while working more effectively with the UNHCR to keep the promise they made last autumn to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety,” he added.
Mary Atkinson, campaigns officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, described the latest Home Office ACRS figures as “disgraceful.”
She added: “We shouldn’t allow this government to get away with its shameful abandonment of the Afghan people — we need a fully functioning Afghan resettlement scheme now.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has made one of the largest commitments to support Afghanistan of any country and, so far, we have brought more than 22,800 vulnerable Afghans to safety.
“However, the situation is complex and presents us with significant challenges, including safe passage out of the country for those who want to leave and who are eligible for resettlement in the UK.”


Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies
Updated 02 December 2022

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies
  • The “bloody parcels” were received by the Ukrainian embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Italy and Czech
  • Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko said that “we are studying the meaning of this message”

KYIV: Ukrainian embassies and consulates in six European countries have received packages containing animals’ eyes in recent days, a Ukrainian official said Friday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko wrote on Facebook that the “bloody parcels” were received by the Ukrainian embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia and Italy, as well as by consulates in Naples, Italy; Krakow, Poland and the Czech city of Brno. He said that “we are studying the meaning of this message.”
Nikolenko said they arrived after a package containing an explosive device that was sent to the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid ignited upon opening on Wednesday and injured an employee. That was one of multiple explosive parcels found in Spain this week.
In addition, the entrance to the residence of the Ukrainian ambassador to the Vatican was vandalized and the embassy in Kazakhstan was warned of a mine attack, though that wasn’t confirmed, Nikolenko said.
All Ukrainian embassies and consulates have stepped up security measures. Nikolenko quoted Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as saying that “we have reason to believe that a well-planned campaign of terror and intimidation of Ukrainian embassies and consulates is taking place.”


Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police
Updated 02 December 2022

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility and officers are still investigating

ATHENS: Two explosive devices targeted cars belonging to the Italian embassy in Greece on Friday, one of which went off causing no injuries, Greek police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility and officers said they were investigating.
A homemade bomb exploded at around 4:00 am (0200 GMT), damaging a vehicle parked at the home of an embassy officer in an Athens suburb, police said.
The other device, placed near a second diplomatic vehicle, did not go off.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed “deep concern” at what she called an “attack... probably of anarchist origin.”
The far-right leader sent her “personal thoughts and those of the Italian government to the first counsellor of the Italian embassy in Athens, Susanna Schlein.”
Meloni added she was following the case “with the utmost attention” and through Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani who was in Athens for talks on Friday.
The Greek foreign ministry “strongly condemned the attack” and said such “unacceptable” acts “would not disrupt... the excellent relations and ties of long-standing friendship between Greece and its partner and ally Italy.”
Crude, homemade devices, which cause damage but rarely injuries, are commonly used against political or diplomatic targets, banks or foreign companies in Greece.
Police often blame groups on the extreme left or anarchists.


Kremlin: Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine

Kremlin: Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine
Updated 02 December 2022

Kremlin: Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine

Kremlin: Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine
  • ‘The president of the Russian Federation has always been, is and remains open to negotiations in order to ensure our interests’
  • Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an imperial-style war of occupation

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin is open to talks on a possible settlement to the conflict in Ukraine and believes in a diplomatic solution, the Kremlin said on Friday after Joe Biden suggested he was prepared to speak to the Russian leader.
Biden, speaking beside French President Emmanuel Macron, said the only way to end the war in Ukraine was for Putin to pull troops out and that if Putin was looking to end the conflict then Biden would be prepared to speak to the Kremlin chief.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov struck a dovish tone when asked about Biden’s remarks, saying that Putin remained open to negotiations but that Russia would not pull out of Ukraine.
“The president of the Russian Federation has always been, is and remains open to negotiations in order to ensure our interests,” Peskov told reporters.
Putin has said he has no regrets about launching what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine, casting it as a watershed moment when Russia finally stood up to arrogant Western hegemony after decades of humiliation in the years since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an imperial-style war of occupation. Ukraine says it will fight until the last Russian soldier is ejected from its territory.
Russia has claimed around a fifth of Ukraine’s post-Soviet territory, annexations the West and Ukraine say they will never accept.
Peskov said that the refusal of the United States to recognize “the new territories” as Russian was hindering a search for any potential compromise.
Asked if the way Biden was framing potential contacts meant that negotiations were impossible from a Russian perspective, Peskov said: “In essence, that’s what Biden said. He said that negotiations are possible only after Putin leaves Ukraine.”
The Kremlin, Peskov said, could not accept that — and the Russian military operation would continue in Ukraine.
“But at the same time — it is very important to give this in conjunction – President Putin has been, is and remains open for contacts, for negotiations. Of course, the most preferable way to achieve our interests is through peaceful, diplomatic means.”
The conflict has left tens of thousands of soldiers dead on both sides and triggered the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.