US Navy deploys four warships east of Taiwan as Nancy Pelosi heads to Taipei

US Navy deploys four warships east of Taiwan as Nancy Pelosi heads to Taipei
The carrier USS Ronald Reagan, among the four US warships on ‘routine deployment’, had transited the South China Sea and was currently in the Philippines Sea. (AFP)
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Updated 02 August 2022

US Navy deploys four warships east of Taiwan as Nancy Pelosi heads to Taipei

US Navy deploys four warships east of Taiwan as Nancy Pelosi heads to Taipei
  • ‘While they are able to respond to any eventuality, these are normal, routine deployments’
  • Confirmation of the deployments comes as signs emerge of military activity on both sides of the Taiwan strait

HONG KONG: As US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi headed to Taipei on Tuesday amid intensifying warnings from China, four US warships, including an aircraft carrier, were positioned in waters east of the island on “routine” deployments.

The carrier USS Ronald Reagan had transited the South China Sea and was currently in the Philippines Sea, east of Taiwan and the Philippines and south of Japan, a US Navy official confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday.

The Japanese-based Reagan is operating with a guided missile cruiser, USS Antietam, and a destroyer, USS Higgins.

“While they are able to respond to any eventuality, these are normal, routine deployments,” the official said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official added that they were unable to comment on precise locations.

The US Navy official said the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli was also in the area as part of a deployment to the region that started in early May from its home port of San Diego.

Pelosi, a long-time China critic, was expected to arrive in Taipei later on Tuesday, people briefed on the matter said, as the United States said it would not be intimidated by Chinese “saber rattling” over the visit.

Confirmation of the deployments comes as signs emerge of military activity on both sides of the Taiwan strait ahead of Pelosi visit. In addition to Chinese planes flying close to the median line dividing the sensitive waterway on Tuesday morning, several Chinese warships had remained close to the unofficial dividing line since Monday, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters.

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Read more: Tension mounts as Pelosi’s Asian tour continues<

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China’s defense and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The source said both Chinese warships and aircraft “squeezed” the median line on Tuesday morning, an unusual move the person described as “very provocative.”

The person said the Chinese aircraft repeatedly conducted tactical moves of briefly “touching” the median line and circling back to the other side of the strait on Tuesday morning, while Taiwanese aircraft were on standby nearby.

Neither side’s aircraft normally cross the median line.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday they have a full grasp of military activities near Taiwan and will appropriately dispatch forces in reaction to “enemy threats” as tensions rise with China.

The ministry had “reinforced” its combat alertness level from Tuesday morning to Thursday noon, the island’s official Central News Agency reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified sources.

In the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, which lies opposite Taiwan and is home to a large military presence, residents reported sightings of armored vehicles on the move and posted pictures online. The photographs have yet to be verified by Reuters.

Chinese social media was abuzz with both trepidation about potential conflict and patriotic fervor over the prospect of unification with Taiwan.

Since last week, the People’s Liberation Army has conducted various exercises, including live fire drills, in the South China, Yellow Sea and Bohan Seas.

Some regional military analysts say that increased deployments at a time of tension raise the risk of accidents, even if no side wants an actual conflict.


Putin makes Chechnya’s Kadyrov an army general

Putin makes Chechnya’s Kadyrov an army general
Updated 58 min 31 sec ago

Putin makes Chechnya’s Kadyrov an army general

Putin makes Chechnya’s Kadyrov an army general
  • Kadyrov said Putin had "personally" informed him of the decision
  • "The President of Russia awarded me the rank of colonel general," Kadyrov said on Telegram

MOSCOW: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Wednesday he was granted a top rank in Russia’s army, just as Moscow’s forces suffer a series of defeats in Ukraine.
The 46-year-old Chechen leader — one of the most outspoken voices in Russia backing Putin’s Ukraine offensive — said it was a “huge honor” for him.
Kadyrov, a former warlord who rules Chechnya with widespread violations of human rights, said Putin had “personally” informed him of the decision.
“The President of Russia awarded me the rank of colonel general,” Kadyrov said on Telegram. “This is a promotion for me.”
The rank of colonel general is the third highest command rank in the Russian military hierarchy.
Kadyrov’s appointment to the rank came as the Ukrainian army pushed back Moscow’s forces in areas that the Kremlin proclaimed to be “Russian forever.”
The Chechen leader said he would do “everything to end the special military operation quickly” — using the Kremlin’s term for its Ukraine campaign.
Chechen units — including Kadyrov’s own militia with a sinister reputation, the “Kadyrovtsi” — are fighting alongside regular Russian forces in Ukraine.
Kadyrov has thrown his full backing behind Putin’s campaign, regularly calling for the most drastic tactics to be used in Ukraine.
This week he called on Moscow to use low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine after Russian troops were forced to retreat from the town of Lyman.
He then said he was sending three of his teenage sons — aged 14,15 and 16 — to the front.


Philippines’ Marcos Jr. open to buying Russian fuel, proposes new Myanmar approach

Philippines’ Marcos Jr. open to buying Russian fuel, proposes new Myanmar approach
Updated 05 October 2022

Philippines’ Marcos Jr. open to buying Russian fuel, proposes new Myanmar approach

Philippines’ Marcos Jr. open to buying Russian fuel, proposes new Myanmar approach
  • The Philippines, a US defense ally, has not imposed any sanctions on Russia
  • Myanmar’s ruling junta has been barred from regional summits

MANILA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said his nation may need to turn to Russia to fulfil its fuel needs amid rising global energy prices, bucking pressure from Western allies for countries to shun Moscow.
Speaking to the Manila Overseas Press Club, Marcos, who is also agriculture minister, said the Philippines may also deal with Russia for supply of fertilizer.
“We take we take a very balanced view because the truth of the matter is, we may have to deal with Russia for fuel, for fertilizer,” said Marcos.
The Philippines like many countries is grappling with soaring inflation, due to supply woes fanned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Philippines, a US defense ally, has not imposed any sanctions on Russia.
Marcos, the son and namesake of the ousted late strongman who ruled the Philippines for two decades, also said he wanted his country to play a key role in promoting regional peace, amid challenges posed by North Korea and China-Taiwan tensions.
“We hope to be part of leading, the ones that are leading the effort for peace,” he said.
He said he would propose a new approach to the crisis in Myanmar at an upcoming meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in November, which could involved engaging the military government directly.
Myanmar’s ruling junta has been barred from regional summits over its failure to implement a five-point peace plan it agreed with ASEAN in April last year, after violent turmoil erupted in the country following a military coup.
The generals have been outraged by ASEAN’s unusually tough stand and have said they intend to comply with its plan, but will not agree to its call to hold dialogue with a pro-democracy resistance movement they call “terrorists.” “It’s time to put together, to put forward some concrete proposals on what we can do to at the very least to bring at least representatives of the military government to the table so we can begin to talk about these things,” Marcos said.
On Wednesday, Cambodia, the current ASEAN chair, confirmed that a request had been sent to the State Administrative Council, as the junta is known, that it nominate a non-political figure to represent Myanmar at the upcoming leaders’ summits. “Again, the SAC has refused to send anyone to the summits,” Cambodia Foreign spokesperson Chum Sounry said.


Blast hits Kabul mosque in vicinity of interior ministry, kills 2

Blast hits Kabul mosque in vicinity of interior ministry, kills 2
Updated 05 October 2022

Blast hits Kabul mosque in vicinity of interior ministry, kills 2

Blast hits Kabul mosque in vicinity of interior ministry, kills 2

KABUL: A blast hit a mosque in Afghanistan’s capital in the vicinity of the heavily fortified interior ministry compound on Wednesday, officials said, killing at least two people and wounding 18, according to medics.
The government did not immediately say what caused the explosion in Kabul, where militants have carried out a number of attacks in recent months.
“The mosque was used by visitors and sometimes by interior ministry employees,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor said.
Italian NGO aid group Emergency, which runs a hospital in Kabul, said on Twitter it received 20 patients from the blast, two of whom were dead on arrival.
The interior ministry compound is in a secure area next to Kabul international airport.
The ruling Taliban have said they have secured the country since taking over in 2021. But though widespread fighting has ended, a series of blasts have hit urban centers in recent months.
An explosion at an education center in West Kabul on Friday killed 53 people, most of them young women, according to the United Nations’ Mission to Afghanistan. 


Liz Truss pledges to steer Britain through ‘stormy days’

Liz Truss pledges to steer Britain through ‘stormy days’
Updated 05 October 2022

Liz Truss pledges to steer Britain through ‘stormy days’

Liz Truss pledges to steer Britain through ‘stormy days’
  • Truss: Conservatives must unite to kick-start stagnant growth and tackle the many problems facing Britain

BIRMINGHAM: British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Wednesday urged her fractious party to stick together and help transform the economy and the country, fighting to restore her dwindling authority after a chaotic first month in office.
Addressing Conservative lawmakers and members at an annual conference overshadowed by internal bickering and confusion over policy, Truss said the party needed to unite to kick-start stagnant growth and tackle the many problems facing Britain.
So far, however, her misfiring attempt to cut $51 billion (£45 billion) of taxes and hike government borrowing has sent turmoil through markets and her party, with opinion polls pointing to electoral collapse rather than a honeymoon period for the new leader.
“We gather at a vital time for the United Kingdom. These are stormy days,” she said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine and the death of Britain’s longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth.
“In these tough times, we need to step up. I’m determined to get Britain moving, to get us through the tempest and to put us on a stronger footing.”
As she started to speak, two protesters held up a sign asking “Who voted for this?” before they were escorted away by security personnel as the crowd chanted “out, out, out.”
Truss, elected by party members and not the broader electorate, was addressing the party faithful after she was forced to reverse plans to scrap the top rate of tax. She acknowledged that change brings “disruption.”
That U-turn has emboldened sections of her party who are now likely to resist spending cuts as the government seeks ways to fund the overall fiscal program.
That risks not only the dilution of her “radical” agenda but also raising the prospect of an early election.
Having entered the conference hall to a standing ovation and the sound of M People’s “Moving On UP,” Truss told party members and lawmakers that she wanted to build a “new Britain for the new era.”
“For too long, the political debate has been dominated by how we distribute a limited economic pie. Instead, we need to grow the pie so that everyone gets a bigger slice,” she said in the central English city of Birmingham.
“That is why I am determined to take a new approach and break us out of this high-tax, low-growth cycle.”
The conference, once expected to be her crowning glory after being appointed prime minister on Sept. 6, has turned into a personal nightmare, and a battle for the country’s political future.
As the debate moved on from tax cuts to how the government would fund them, lawmakers and ministers openly clashed, in stark contrast to the sense of discipline on display at the opposition Labour Party conference last week.
Some lawmakers fear Truss will break a commitment to increase benefit payments in line with inflation, something they argue would be inappropriate at a time when millions of families are struggling with the cost of soaring prices.
Ministers say they are yet to take a decision and are obliged to look at economic data later this month.
While markets have largely stabilized after the Bank of England stepped in to shore up the bond market — albeit after the cost of borrowing surged — opinion polls now point to an electoral collapse for the Conservatives.
John Curtice, Britain’s best-known pollster, said before the speech that Labour now held an average lead of 25 percentage points and the Conservatives needed to accept they were “in deep, deep electoral trouble.”


Russia: Moscow should be part of Nord Stream leaks probe

Russia: Moscow should be part of Nord Stream leaks probe
Updated 05 October 2022

Russia: Moscow should be part of Nord Stream leaks probe

Russia: Moscow should be part of Nord Stream leaks probe
  • Four leaks were discovered last week on the Nord Stream pipelines connecting Russia to Germany
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of being behind the blasts

MOSCOW: Moscow said Wednesday it should be part of the probe into leaks on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, after Sweden blocked off the area around the pipelines pending an investigation.
“There should really be an investigation. Naturally, with the participation of Russia,” Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Vershinin said, as quoted by Russian news agencies.
Four leaks were discovered last week on the Nord Stream pipelines connecting Russia to Germany, raising political tensions already sky high since the Kremlin sent troop to Ukraine in February.
On Friday, the UN Security Council held a meeting on the issue.
Vershinin told the assembly that “the general opinion was that this was sabotage and that it should be investigated” but that “no decision had been made” on an international probe.
Last Wednesday, Russia launched an “international terrorism” investigation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such a probe “required the cooperation of several countries.”
He denounced an “acute shortage of communications and unwillingness of many countries to contact” Russia.
On Monday, Sweden blocked off the area around the pipeline leaks in the Baltic Sea while the suspected sabotage was being investigated.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of being behind the blasts.
Russia’s Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev said Wednesday that “it is clear that the United States is the beneficiary, primarily economic” of the leaks.
Both Moscow and Washington have denied involvement.