Pelosi confirms trip to Asia, but no mention of Taiwan

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (REUTERS)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (REUTERS)
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Updated 31 July 2022

Pelosi confirms trip to Asia, but no mention of Taiwan

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (REUTERS)
  • Beijing has given no details of how it might react if Pelosi goes to Taiwan, but the Ministry of Defense warned last week the military would take “strong measures to thwart any external interference”

BEIJNG: The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, confirmed Sunday she will visit four Asian countries this week but made no mention of a possible stop in Taiwan that has fueled tension with Beijing, which claims the island democracy as its own territory.
Pelosi said in a statement she is leading a congressional delegation to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan to discuss trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, security and “democratic governance.”
Pelosi has yet to confirm news reports that she might visit Taiwan. Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against meddling in Beijing’s dealings with the island in a phone call Thursday with his American counterpart, Joe Biden.
Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make its decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they don’t support. Pelosi, head of one of three branches of the US government, would be the highest-ranking elected American official to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
The Biden administration didn’t explicitly urge Pelosi to avoid Taiwan but tried to assure Beijing there was no reason to “come to blows” and that if such a visit occurred, it would signal no change in US policy.
“Under the strong leadership of President Biden, America is firmly committed to smart, strategic engagement in the region, understanding that a free and flourishing Indo-Pacific is crucial to prosperity in our nation and around the globe,” Pelosi’s statement said.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after the communists won a civil war on the mainland. Both sides say they are one country but disagree over which government is entitled to national leadership. They have no official relations but are linked by billions of dollars of trade and investment.
The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but maintains informal relations with the island. Washington is obligated by federal law to see that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.
Washington’s “One China policy” says it takes no position on the status of the two sides but wants their dispute resolved peacefully. Beijing promotes an alternative “One China principle” that says they are one country and the Communist Party is its leader.
Members of Congress publicly backed Pelosi’s interest in visiting Taiwan despite Chinese opposition. They want to avoid being seen as yielding to Beijing.
Beijing has given no details of how it might react if Pelosi goes to Taiwan, but the Ministry of Defense warned last week the military would take “strong measures to thwart any external interference.” The foreign ministry said, “those who play with fire will perish by it.”
The ruling party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, has flown growing numbers of fighter planes and bombers around Taiwan to intimidate the island.
“The Air Force’s multi-type fighter jets fly around the treasured island of the motherland, tempering and enhancing the ability to maintain national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” military spokesman Col. Shen Jinke said on Sunday, referring to Taiwan.
Pelosi said her delegation includes US Reps. Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mark Takano, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Suzan DelBene, vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chair of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Andy Kim, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.
A visit to Taiwan would be a career capstone for Pelosi, who increasingly uses her position in Congress as a US emissary on the global stage. She has long challenged China on human rights and wanted to visit Taiwan earlier this year.
In 1991, as a new member of Congress, Pelosi irked Chinese authorities by unfurling a banner on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing commemorating those killed when the Communist Party crushed pro-democracy protests two years earlier.
“It’s important for us to show support for Taiwan,” Pelosi, a Democrat from California, told reporters this month.
But she had made clear she was not advocating US policy changes.
“None of us has ever said we’re for independence, when it comes to Taiwan,” she said. “That’s up to Taiwan to decide.”
On Friday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tried to tamp down concerns.
“There’s no reason for it to come to that, to come to blows,” Kirby said at the White House. “There’s no reason for that because there’s been no change in American policy with respect to One China.”


Late Sultan’s heirs ask Dutch court to enforce $15bn award against Malaysia

Late Sultan’s heirs ask Dutch court to enforce $15bn award against Malaysia
Updated 30 September 2022

Late Sultan’s heirs ask Dutch court to enforce $15bn award against Malaysia

Late Sultan’s heirs ask Dutch court to enforce $15bn award against Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Heirs of a late Southeast Asian sultan filed a request in a Dutch court on Thursday to recognize and enforce a $15 billion arbitration award granted to them against Malaysia’s government, their lawyer said.

The petition was filed in The Hague Court of Appeal, said lawyer Paul Cohen, a lead co-counsel for the sultan’s heirs from British law firm 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square.

“This filing in the Netherlands will soon be followed by other enforcement actions, of varying types, in multiple jurisdictions. This may include immediate, direct attachment of specific Malaysian assets in The Netherlands and elsewhere,” Cohen said.

Malaysia’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the petition.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the filings with Dutch court authorities.

A French arbitration court in February ordered Malaysia to pay the $15 billion sum to the descendents of the last Sultan of Sulu to settle a dispute over a colonial-era land deal.

Malaysia has obtained a stay on the ruling pending an appeal, but the award remains enforceable outside France under a United Nations treaty on international arbitration.

Malaysia has said it did not recognize the heirs’ claim and would take all steps to uphold the country’s sovereignty.


Afghan women rally in support of Iran’s anti-government protests

Afghan women rally in support of Iran’s anti-government protests
Updated 30 September 2022

Afghan women rally in support of Iran’s anti-government protests

Afghan women rally in support of Iran’s anti-government protests
  • Demonstrators gathered in front of the Iranian Embassy in Kabul chanting ‘women, life, freedom’
  • Rally was soon dispersed by Taliban security forces, who fired into the air

KABUL: Afghan women rallied in front of the Iranian Embassy in Kabul on Thursday, joining global protests over the death of a young woman in the custody of Iran’s morality police.

Mahsa Amini, 22, was detained in Tehran on Sept. 12 for failing to cover her hair in a manner deemed proper by the authorities. Women who were arrested along with Amini have said she was beaten inside a police van. Three days later she died in hospital after falling into a coma.

Public anger over her death has prompted days of rage and protests across Iran, in what has been the largest manifestation of dissent against the government in over a decade.

Protests have also spilled into other countries.

A group of about 25 women who gathered in front of the Iranian Embassy in Kabul carried placards that read: “Beautiful Mahsa, your blood is our way and inspiration,” as they chanted “women, life, freedom” — the phrase that has been used by demonstrators in Iran.

A 24-year-old university student who participated in the protest told Arab News she had attended the rally in solidarity.

“Women in Iran and we are facing the same oppression. We wanted to show that we can amplify the voices of our sisters in Iran while highlighting our own concerns for freedom and dignity,” she said, on condition of anonymity.

“The widespread protests in Iran supported by men and women also inspired us to continue our fight for the rights of Afghan women in Afghanistan. Afghan women have been brave enough to defy the Taliban’s restrictive attitude. We will not be silenced and we will rise again.”

The rights of Afghan women have been limited since the Taliban took control of the country after US-led forces withdrew from the country in August last year.

Although they had previously promised a softer version of the harsh rule during their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, women have already been ordered to wear face coverings in public, banned from making long-distance journeys alone, and prevented from working in most sectors outside of health and education.

Since September last year, permission from the Ministry of Justice is required to organize a protest. Slogans used during rallies must also be approved by authorities.

Soon after Thursday’s rally in front of the embassy began, it was dispersed by Taliban security forces, who fired into the air.

For Afghan women’s rights activists like Muzhgan Noori, the protest was a “fine example of sisterhood and solidarity among women sharing the same pain and concerns.

“Afghan women have protested whenever they felt the need for it, and they should be able to do so now. The government must support and protect them instead of frightening them,” she told Arab News.

“I hope women continue to stand for each other.”


US Senate approves $12 billion in new aid for Ukraine

US Senate approves $12 billion in new aid for Ukraine
Updated 29 September 2022

US Senate approves $12 billion in new aid for Ukraine

US Senate approves $12 billion in new aid for Ukraine
  • It provides $4.5 billion for Kyiv to keep the country's finances stable and keep the government running
  • It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to declare the annexation of parts of Ukraine

WASHINGTON: The US Senate approved $12 billion in new economic and military aid for Ukraine Thursday as part of a stopgap extension of the federal budget into December.
The measure, agreed by senators of both parties, includes $3 billion for arms, supplies and salaries for Ukraine’s military, and authorizes President Joe Biden to direct the US Defense Department to take $3.7 billion worth of its own weapons and materiel to provide Ukraine.
It also provides $4.5 billion for Kyiv to keep the country’s finances stable and keep the government running, providing services to the Ukrainian people.
It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to declare the annexation of parts of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops on Friday.
“Seven months since the conflict began, it’s crystal clear that American assistance has gone a long way to helping the Ukrainian people resist Putin’s evil, vicious aggression,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“But the fight is far from over, and we must, we must, continue helping the brave, valiant Ukrainian people.”
The Ukraine aid is part of a short-term extension of the federal budget, which is to expire at the end of the fiscal year on September 30 without the parties in Congress having agreed to a full-year allocation for fiscal 2022-23.
The extension, or continuing resolution, will keep the government running into December, but it has to first be approved by the House of Representatives to avoid shutting down parts of the government on Monday.


US charges ex-Army major and his wife over alleged plot to leak military health data to Russia

US charges ex-Army major and his wife over alleged plot to leak military health data to Russia
Updated 29 September 2022

US charges ex-Army major and his wife over alleged plot to leak military health data to Russia

US charges ex-Army major and his wife over alleged plot to leak military health data to Russia
  • The indictment alleges that the plot started after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine
  • Prosecutors said the pair wanted to try to help the Russian government by providing them with data

WASHINGTON: A former US Army major and his anesthesiologist wife have been criminally charged for allegedly plotting to leak highly sensitive health care data about military patients to Russia, the Justice Department revealed on Thursday.
Jamie Lee Henry, the former major who was also a doctor at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and his wife, Dr. Anna Gabrielian, were charged in an unsealed indictment in a federal court in Maryland with conspiracy and the wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information.
The indictment alleges that the plot started after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.
Prosecutors said the pair wanted to try to help the Russian government by providing them with data to help the Putin regime “gain insights into the medical conditions of individuals associated with the US government and military.”
The two met with someone whom they believed was a Russian official, but in fact was actually an FBI undercover agent, the indictment says.


Putin says conflicts in Ukraine, ex-USSR are ‘result of Soviet collapse’

Putin says conflicts in Ukraine, ex-USSR are ‘result of Soviet collapse’
Updated 29 September 2022

Putin says conflicts in Ukraine, ex-USSR are ‘result of Soviet collapse’

Putin says conflicts in Ukraine, ex-USSR are ‘result of Soviet collapse’
  • In the past month, the region has seen clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and Armenia and Azerbaijan
  • Putin has regularly made nostalgic speeches about the USSR and served in the Soviet security services (KGB)

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that conflicts in countries of the former USSR, including Ukraine, are the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“It is enough to look at what is happening now between Russia and Ukraine, and at what is happening on the borders of some other CIS countries. All this, of course, is the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Putin said in a televised meeting with intelligence chiefs of former Soviet countries.
In parallel to the military operation in Ukraine, armed conflicts have returned to various parts of the former Soviet empire.
In the past month the region has seen clashes between the two Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Putin pointed fingers at the West, saying it was “working on scenarios to fuel new conflicts” in the post-Soviet space.
Putin spoke a day before he is due to formally annex four Moscow-occupied Ukrainian regions, in a move that is expected to escalate the Ukraine conflict.
“We are witnessing the formation of a new world order, which is a difficult process,” Putin said, echoing earlier statements about the waning influence of the West.
Putin, who turns 70 next week, has regularly made nostalgic speeches about the USSR and served in the Soviet security services (KGB).
His statement comes during an exodus of Russian men fleeing a mobilization, including to ex-Soviet countries like Kazakhstan, whose president vowed to shelter Russian draft dodgers.