Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion

Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion
Taipei’s drill started in the southern county of Pingtung shortly with the firing of target flares and artillery, ending just under an hour later. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 August 2022

Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion

Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion
  • Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China
  • Taipei’s drill started in the southern county of Pingtung shortly with the firing of target flares and artillery

FENGGANG TOWNSHIP, Taiwan: Taiwan held an artillery drill Tuesday simulating a defense against an attack as its top diplomat accused Beijing of preparing to invade the island after days of massive Chinese war games.
China launched its largest-ever air and sea exercises around Taiwan last week in a furious response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking American official to visit the self-ruled island in decades.
Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China, which views its neighbor as part of Chinese territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary.
“China has used the drills and its military playbook to prepare for the invasion of Taiwan,” Joseph Wu told a press conference in Taipei on Tuesday, accusing Beijing of using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for military action.
“China’s real intention is to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and entire region,” he said.
Taipei’s drill started in the southern county of Pingtung shortly with the firing of target flares and artillery, ending just under an hour later, said Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for Taiwan’s Eighth Army Corps.
Soldiers fired from howitzers tucked into the coast, hidden from view of the road that leads to popular beach destination Kenting.
The drills, which will also take place Thursday, included the deployment of hundreds of troops and about 40 howitzers, the army said.
On Monday, Lou said the drills had been scheduled previously and were not in response to China’s exercises.
The island routinely stages military drills simulating defense against a Chinese invasion, and last month practiced repelling attacks from the sea in a “joint interception operation” as part of its largest annual exercises.
The anti-landing exercises come after China extended its own joint sea and air drills around Taiwan on Monday, but Washington said it did not expect an escalation from Beijing.
“I’m not worried, but I’m concerned they’re moving as much as they are. But I don’t think they’re going to do anything more than they are,” Biden told reporters at Dover Air Force Base.
China has not confirmed if its drills in the Taiwan Strait will continue Tuesday.
But Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu condemned Beijing for extending its military exercises around the island, accusing them of trying to control the Taiwan Strait and waters in the wider Asia-Pacific region.
“It is conducting large-scale military exercises and missile launches, as well as cyber-attacks, a disinformation campaign and economic coercion in order to weaken public morale in Taiwan,” he said.
Wu went on to thank Western allies, including the US after Pelosi’s visit, for standing up to China.
“It also sends a clear message to the world that democracy will not bow to the intimidation of authoritarianism,” he said.
Taiwan has insisted that no Chinese warplanes or ships entered its territorial waters — within 12 nautical miles of land — during Beijing’s drills.
The Chinese military, however, released a video last week of an air force pilot filming the island’s coastline and mountains from his cockpit, showing how close it had come to Taiwan’s shores.
Its ships and planes have also regularly crossed the median line — an unofficial demarcation between China and Taiwan that the former does not recognize — since drills began last week.
Ballistic missiles were fired over Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, during the exercises last week, according to Chinese state media.
On Tuesday, the Chinese military released more details about the anti-submarine drills it had conducted a day earlier around the island.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater command said the exercises were aimed at enhancing the ability of air and sea units to work together while hunting submarines.
It said maritime patrol aircraft, fighter jets, helicopters and a destroyer practiced locating and attacking targets in the waters off Taiwan.
The scale and intensity of China’s drills — as well as its withdrawal from key talks on climate and defense — have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies.
The drills have also shown how an increasingly emboldened Chinese military could carry out a gruelling blockade of the island, experts say.
But Beijing on Monday defended its behavior as “firm, forceful and appropriate” to American provocation.
“(We) are only issuing a warning to the perpetrators,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing, promising China would “firmly smash the Taiwan authorities’ illusion of gaining independence through the US.”
“We urge the US to do some earnest reflection, and immediately correct its mistakes.”


Pakistani women MPs, activists condemn ‘brutal killing’ of Iranian woman

Pakistani women MPs, activists condemn ‘brutal killing’ of Iranian woman
Updated 16 sec ago

Pakistani women MPs, activists condemn ‘brutal killing’ of Iranian woman

Pakistani women MPs, activists condemn ‘brutal killing’ of Iranian woman
  • Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody ignites rage against Tehran regime

KARACHI: Leading Pakistani women politicians and rights activists on Saturday joined the growing global outcry over the death of Iranian Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being detained by Iran’s so-called morality police for disobeying the country’s strict dress code.  

At least 35 people have been killed during widespread protests across Iran in the past week, according to Iranian state media, amid mounting anger over allegations that Amini, 22, was the victim of police brutality.  

Amini was arrested in Tehran on Sept. 13 for allegedly wearing a hijab in an “improper” manner. She was taken to a detention center where she collapsed shortly afterwards.

Her death three days later sparked large demonstrations and acts of defiance against the Tehran regime.

In several clips that have gone viral on social media, women can be seen cutting their hair publicly and burning headscarves, an open challenge to Iranian authorities.  

Protesters are demanding an end to what they say is police brutality, as well as moral policing, and say that women should have the right to dress as they please.

The Gasht-e Ershad (Guidance Patrols) is a special police unit in Iran tasked with enforcing the Islamic dress code in public.

Pakistani women politicians reacted angrily to Amini’s death, calling for an impartial investigation into the case and demanding more freedom for women in Iran.  

“It’s really sad and if what is being reported is true, it’s a shocking and blatant violation of fundamental rights,” Shazia Marri, Pakistan’s federal minister for poverty alleviation, told Arab News on Saturday.  

“It’s a complete travesty of justice and highly condemnable. Everyone must have a right to choose,” she added.

Iranian police said that Amini’s death was caused by a heart attack, and denied reports that officers had struck her with a baton and banged her head against one of their vehicles.  

Sharmila Sahibah Faruqui, a lawmaker of Pakistan’s provincial Sindh Assembly, told Arab News that it is “heartbreaking to see how Mahsa Amini was brutally killed by law enforcement authorities for not wearing a hijab.”  

She added: “The voices of women must not be oppressed by the state. Women must be empowered, not silenced.”

Sehar Kamran, a former Pakistani senator, said that “Iran must ensure that a few individuals do not smear the name of law and Islam, and should bring the culprits to justice.”

She added: “The onus lies on Iranian authorities to ensure justice so that such events do not occur in the future.”  

Anis Haroon, a member of the Women’s Action Forum in Pakistan, said that women’s rights have suffered in Iran due to compulsory dress codes, segregation and torture by the morality police.  

“The role of the morality police should end,” she said. “The state has no right to intervene in the private lives of people. Women of Iran should be allowed to live like free human beings under the rights granted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” she said.  

Nighat Dad, a leading lawyer who runs the Digital Rights Foundation — a think tank tackling digital rights through a gender lens — said that Amini’s death has sparked resistance, “which the regime won’t be able to stop now.”

She told Arab News that men supporting these protests is a “testament to what the people of Iran basically want from the regime now.”

Women were now deciding for themselves whether to wear the hijab or not, Dad said.

“And it is actually their own choice. When we say ‘my body, my choice’ in Pakistan, that is exactly what we mean — that we should have control over our body, not other people controlling it,” she added.   

Dancer and activist Sheema Kermani accused Iran’s morality police of having committed grave human rights violations for decades.

She said that the Iranian state’s warnings to citizens and an Internet blackout are “ominous signs that reflect the intention of the totalitarian regime to use more brutal force against the protesters.”

She said: “We are proud of Iranian women for offering strong resistance despite being the most vulnerable group.”   

Nayab Gohar Jan, a Pakistan People’s Party activist, told Arab News that it is time for Iran to have serious conversations about women’s rights.

“Given the scale of protests across the country, it may also be time for Iranian authorities to open up dialogue on these issues,” she said.  

 


Philippines, US on track to deepen alliance as Marcos concludes American trip

President Joe Biden meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in New York. (AP)
President Joe Biden meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in New York. (AP)
Updated 24 min 15 sec ago

Philippines, US on track to deepen alliance as Marcos concludes American trip

President Joe Biden meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in New York. (AP)
  • Leader’s approach breaks from predecessor, who embraced Beijing-friendly direction
  • Deepening relations with Manila appears to be ‘high priority’ for Biden administration, expert says

MANILA: The Philippines is on track to deepen its alliance with the US, experts said this week, as the first meeting between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his US counterpart Joe Biden showed mutual intention to revive long-standing ties that were undermined during the previous Philippine presidency.

Marcos and Biden held their inaugural face-to-face talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City, a few months after the son of the late dictator took office following a landslide victory in the Philippine elections.

Since becoming president, Marcos has held meetings with a number of top US officials, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a foreign policy shift from the days of former president Rodrigo Duterte, who oversaw a strategy to distance Manila from Washington and embrace a Beijing-friendly direction.

We are your partners, we are your allies, we are your friends. And in like fashion, we have always considered the US our partner, our ally and our friend.

Marcos Jr., Phillipine president

“We are your partners, we are your allies, we are your friends. And in like fashion, we have always considered the US our partner, our ally and our friend,” Marcos told Biden during their meeting.

Marcos, who is set to return to the Philippines on Saturday, said that he cannot envision his country without the US as a partner during an economic forum earlier in the week.

Biden had reaffirmed the US’ “ironclad commitment” to the defense of the Philippines during the occasion, the White House said in a statement, as they discussed various other issues, including tensions in the South China Sea and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The relationship between the US and the Philippines, to state the obvious, has very deep roots. We’ve had some rocky times but the fact is it’s a critical, critical relationship from our perspective,” Biden said.

Their meeting conveyed eagerness on both sides to strengthen ties, Southeast Asia expert Gregory Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C., told Arab News.

“The meeting certainly shows both sides are eager to deepen the relationship, and that doing so is a high priority for the Biden administration,” Poling said.

As the White House “doesn’t organize a ton of meetings like this” on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Poling said that “prioritizing this one sends its own message.

“The US-Philippines alliance is undergoing a process of modernization that started last year and is moving rather quickly,” he added.

Victor Andres Manhit, president of the Stratbase ADR Institute for Strategic and International Studies in Manila, said the meeting showed how Manila is “strengthening and believes” in its partnership with Washington.

“Hopefully, this could be a fresh start in how to strengthen this alliance and turn this alliance beyond defense and security but really a consistent support from the US with regard to trade, investments that can generate jobs, that can then generate more growth for the Philippines,” Manhit told Arab News.

He added that strong relations between the two countries have “always been what the Filipinos want.”

Marcos said that the Philippines will be “a friend to all, and an enemy to none” during his first address to the nation in July, with his administration’s approach toward the US showing a marked contrast to his predecessor, who went to China in the early days of his presidency and announced a “separation” from Washington, its former colonial master.

 


Saudi ambassador in India pledges to boost Riyadh’s ties with New Delhi

Saudi ambassador in India pledges to boost Riyadh’s ties with New Delhi
Updated 22 min 50 sec ago

Saudi ambassador in India pledges to boost Riyadh’s ties with New Delhi

Saudi ambassador in India pledges to boost Riyadh’s ties with New Delhi
  • The Kingdom is India’s fourth largest trade partner
  • New Saudi envoy to presented his credentials in early September

NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to India Saleh bin Eid Al-Hussaini has vowed to boost and strengthen relations between Riyadh and New Delhi during his tenure in the South Asian country, as officials and peoples of the two countries celebrated the 92nd Saudi National Day in the Indian capital.

Saudi Arabia celebrated its National Day on Sept. 23 to commemorate the renaming of the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by royal decree of King Abdulaziz Al-Saud in 1932.

The Saudi embassy in India hosted a National Day event in New Delhi on Friday, the first such festivity held since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Indian Health Minister Mansukh Mandavia was the chief guest during the occasion, which also saw other Indian officials in attendance.

FASTFACT

India has been seeking to enhance its strategic partnership with the Kingdom since, as well as cooperation on international platforms, with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visiting Saudi Arabia earlier in September.

Al-Hussaini, who presented his credentials to Indian President Droupadi Murmu earlier this month, has vowed to deepen Saudi-Indian ties during his tenure.

“This would be my endeavor to consolidate and accelerate the growth of our mutual and beneficial partnership and strengthen the friendly bond between the people of our countries,” Al-Hussaini said during his speech at the Saudi National Day event in New Delhi.

Saudi-Indian ties reached new highs when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited New Delhi in February 2019. In October that year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Riyadh at the invitation of King Salman, which saw the two nations establishing the Strategic Partnership Council.

Al-Hussaini, who described the crown prince’s New Delhi trip as a “landmark visit,” said that high-level engagements that year had “marked a new chapter in bilateral relations.”

India has been seeking to enhance its strategic partnership with the Kingdom since, as well as cooperation on international platforms, with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visiting Saudi Arabia earlier in September.

The India-Saudi strategic partnership is focused on four areas: Political issues, security, socio-cultural relations and defense cooperation.

Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trade partner, after the US, China and the UAE, with bilateral trade worth $42.8 billion in the 2021-22 fiscal year. Energy also plays an important role in their ties, with New Delhi importing about 18 and 22 percent of its crude oil and LPG demands, respectively, from the Kingdom.

 


France’s Montpellier airport shut after plane skids into lake

France’s Montpellier airport shut after plane skids into lake
Updated 24 September 2022

France’s Montpellier airport shut after plane skids into lake

France’s Montpellier airport shut after plane skids into lake
  • Images showed the Boeing 737 of the West Atlantic cargo carrier tilting with its nose in the lake
  • The three crew escaped the accident in the early hours of Saturday unhurt

MONTPELLIER, France: French authorities on Saturday shut the airport in the southern city of Montpellier for an indefinite period after a cargo plane overran the runway and ended up with its nose in a nearby lake.
Images showed the Boeing 737 of the West Atlantic cargo carrier tilting with its nose in the lake and body perched on the land. The three crew escaped the accident in the early hours of Saturday unhurt, local authorities said.
The prefecture for the Herault region said the airport would be closed to both passenger and cargo planes until further notice as a security measure and until a specialized firm came to take the plane away.
“We will not reopen the airport as long as the aircraft is on the runway and the investigation is not finished,” an airport source, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
“After the removal of the aircraft, the runway will also be carefully checked,” added the source.
Twenty-one commercial flights had been scheduled on Saturday at the airport which in peak season sees up to 197,000 passengers a month.
“A technical incident prevents normal operation,” said an English message on the airport’s website headlined “closure of Montpellier airport.”
The website showed that flights had either being canceled or diverted to Marseille.


Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia

Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia
Updated 24 September 2022

Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia

Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia
  • Experts predicted high winds, storm surges and heavy rainfall from Fiona

HALIFAX: Powerful storm Fiona slammed into eastern Canada on Saturday with hurricane-force winds, nearly a week after devastating parts of the Caribbean.
The US National Hurricane Center said the center of the storm, now called Post-Tropical Cyclone Fiona, was crossing eastern Nova Scotia, bringing high winds and heavy rains.
The storm had weakened somewhat as it traveled north. As of 5 a.m. (0900 GMT), the storm was about 160 miles (255 km) northeast of Halifax, carrying maximum winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph) and barrelling north at around 26 mph (43 kph), the NHC said.
Experts predicted high winds, storm surges and heavy rainfall from Fiona. Although a gradual weakening was forecast during the next couple of days, Fiona was expected to maintain hurricane-force winds until Saturday afternoon, the NHC said.
Formerly designated a hurricane, the storm battered Caribbean islands earlier in the week, killing at least eight people and knocking out power for virtually all of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million people during a sweltering heat wave. Nearly a million people remained without power five days later.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delayed Saturday’s departure for Japan, where he was to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to receive briefings and support the government’s emergency response, Press Secretary Cecely Roy said on Twitter.
A hurricane warning was in effect for much of central Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, home to more than 150,000 people, and parts of Newfoundland, the Miami-based NHC said.
Canadian Hurricane Center meteorologist Ian Hubbard said on Friday the effects of Fiona would be felt over a wide area.
“The center of it is one thing, but the weather that’s associated with it in terms of the rain and where all the strong winds are, it’s going to be over a much larger area,” he said.
“Many, many places away from the center of the storm are still going to be seriously impacted from this,” Hubbard told Reuters.
There will be rough and pounding surf, with waves as high as 10 meters (33 feet) expected to hit the eastern shore of Nova Scotia Friday night.
Canadian authorities sent emergency alerts in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, warning of severe flooding along shorelines and extremely dangerous waves. People in coastal areas were advised to evacuate.
“We’ve had a few before, but they say this is going to be the biggest of them all,” said Chris MacPhee, 53, of Sydney, Nova Scotia, who stocked up on groceries, batteries and candles. He said he was feeling “a little nervous, I guess.”
The storm could prove more ferocious than the benchmarks of Hurricane Juan in 2003 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Canadian Hurricane Center meteorologist Bob Robichaud told a briefing.
The country’s two largest carriers, Air Canada and WestJet Airlines, suspended regional service starting Friday evening.
Trailing Fiona in the Caribbean is Tropical storm Ian, which is expected to become a hurricane on Sunday night. The NHC said that a hurricane watch is in effect for Cayman Islands.
The storms Ian’s projected path takes it just south of Jamaica, over western Cuba and into Florida early next week, the hurricane center said.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Friday, freeing up funding and emergency services in advance of the storm.