China reaffirms threat of military force to annex Taiwan

China reaffirms threat of military force to annex Taiwan
A People’s Liberation Army member looks through binoculars during military exercises as Taiwan’s frigate Lan Yang is seen at the rear on Aug. 5, 2022. (Xinhua via AP)
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Updated 10 August 2022

China reaffirms threat of military force to annex Taiwan

China reaffirms threat of military force to annex Taiwan
  • Beijing seeks ‘peaceful unification’ with Taiwan but ‘does not pledge to relinquish the use of military force and retains all necessary options’

BEIJING: China on Wednesday reaffirmed its threat to use military force to bring self-governing Taiwan under its control, amid threatening Chinese military exercises that have raised tensions between the sides to their highest level in years.
The statement issued by the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office and its news department followed almost a week of missile firings and incursions into Taiwanese waters and airspace by Chinese warships and air force planes.
The actions have disrupted flights and shipping in a region crucial to global supply chains, prompting strong condemnation from the US, Japan and others.
The Chinese statement said Beijing seeks “peaceful unification” with Taiwan but “does not pledge to relinquish the use of military force and retains all necessary options.”
In an additional response, China said it was cutting off dialogue on issues from maritime security to climate change with the US, Taiwan’s chief military and political backer.
China says the threatening moves were prompted by a visit to Taiwan last week by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but Taiwan says such visits are routine and that China used that merely as a pretext to up its threats.
Taiwan’s foreign minister warned Tuesday that the Chinese military drills reflect ambitions to control large swaths of the western Pacific, while Taipei conducted its own exercises to underscore its readiness to defend itself.
Beijing’s strategy would include controlling the East and South China seas via the Taiwan Strait and imposing a blockade to prevent the US and its allies from aiding Taiwan in the event of an attack, Joseph Wu told a news conference in Taipei.
Beijing has extended the ongoing exercises without announcing when they will end.
Taiwan split with the mainland amid civil war in 1949 and the island’s 23 million people overwhelmingly oppose political unification with China, while preferring to maintain close economic links and the status quo of de-facto independence.
Through its maneuvers, China has pushed closer to Taiwan’s borders and may be seeking to establish a new normal in which it could eventually control access to the island’s ports and airspace.
The US, Taipei’s main backer, has also shown itself to be willing to face down China’s threats. Washington has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, but is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself and to treat all threats against it as matters of grave concern.
That leaves open the question of whether Washington would dispatch forces if China attacked Taiwan. US President Joe Biden has said repeatedly the US is bound to do so — but staff members have quickly walked back those comments.
Beyond the geopolitical risks, an extended crisis in the Taiwan Strait — a significant thoroughfare for global trade — could have major implications for international supply chains at a time when the world is already facing disruptions and uncertainty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
In particular, Taiwan is a crucial provider of computer chips for the global economy, including China’s high-tech sectors.
In response to the drills, Taiwan has put its forces on alert, but has so far refrained from taking active counter measures.
On Tuesday, its military held live-fire artillery drills in Pingtung County on its southeastern coast.


France’s Montpellier airport shut after plane skids into lake

France’s Montpellier airport shut after plane skids into lake
Updated 54 min 36 sec ago

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.


North Korea may test submarine-launched ballistic missile: South Korea

North Korea may test submarine-launched ballistic missile: South Korea
Updated 24 September 2022

North Korea may test submarine-launched ballistic missile: South Korea

North Korea may test submarine-launched ballistic missile: South Korea
  • US Vice President Harris is set to visit the region next week and meet with leaders of Japan and South Korea

South Korea’s military has detected signs that North Korea may be preparing to test a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday, days before a visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris.
The military detected preparations this week in Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province, North Korea, Yonhap reported, citing an unnamed South Korean military source. This is in line with a US-based think tank’s report this week, which cited commercial satellite imagery.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is aware of signs and movements suggesting North Korean provocations, including SLBMs, the presidential office said in a statement on Saturday.
US Vice President Harris is set to visit the region next week and meet with leaders of Japan and South Korea.
A senior US administration official told a briefing on Friday that a nuclear test or other provocation was possible during Harris’ trip to the region, but that they had no predictions or announcements to make.
A US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday for the first time in about four years, joining other military vessels to participate in joint drills with South Korean forces.
North Korea has denounced previous US military deployments and joint drills as rehearsals for war and evidence of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.


Heavy rains, lightning kill at least 36 in northern India

Heavy rains, lightning kill at least 36 in northern India
Updated 24 September 2022

Heavy rains, lightning kill at least 36 in northern India

Heavy rains, lightning kill at least 36 in northern India
  • Lightning strikes are common during India’s monsoon season, which runs from June to September
  • Global warming has also increased the frequency of lightning

LUCKNOW, India: Hazardous weather killed at least 36 people in northern India over the past 24 hours, including 12 who died after being struck by lightning, officials said as they warned of more heavy downpours in the coming days.
Across the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, some 24 people died after their homes collapsed amid unrelenting rains, Relief Commissioner Ranvir Prasad said.
Mohamed Usman, 15, was on his friend’s roof in the city of Prayagraj when lightning struck Friday evening, killing him instantly. His friend Aznan, who goes by one name, was injured and is being treated in a hospital.
“As soon as they set foot on the roof, they were hit by lightning and my son died,” said Mohammad Ayub, Usman’s father.
Officials said 39 people in the state have died from lightning in the last five days, prompting the state government to issue new guidelines for how people can protect themselves during a thunderstorm.
Lightning strikes are common during India’s monsoon season, which runs from June to September.
Col. Sanjay Srivastava, whose organization Lightning Resilient India Campaign works with the Indian Meteorological Department, said that deforestation, the depletion of bodies of water, and pollution all contribute to climate change, which leads to more lightning.
Global warming has also increased the frequency of lightning, said Sunita Narain, director general at the Center for Science and Environment. A 1-degree-Celsius (1.8-degree-Fahrenheit) rise in temperature increases lightning by 12 times.
There has been a 34 percent rise in lightning strikes across India over the past year, which has caused deaths to also jump. India recorded 1,489 deaths due to lightning in 2016, and the number grew to 2,869 in 2021, according to Srivastava.


New leader Marcos Jr. wants to ‘reintroduce’ Philippines

New leader Marcos Jr. wants to ‘reintroduce’ Philippines
Updated 24 September 2022

New leader Marcos Jr. wants to ‘reintroduce’ Philippines

New leader Marcos Jr. wants to ‘reintroduce’ Philippines
  • Three months into his administration, he seemed energetic and enthusiastic — and eager to project his vision for the nation beyond its borders

NEW YORK: Looking to “reintroduce the Philippines” to the world, new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has ambitious plans for his nation on the international stage and at home — if, that is, the twin specters of pandemic and climate change can be overcome or at least managed.
And if he can surmount the legacies of two people: his predecessor, and his father.
He also wants to strengthen ties with both the United States and China — a delicate balancing act for the Southeast Asian nation — and, like many of his fellow leaders at the United Nations this week, called on the countries that have caused global warming to help less wealthy nations counteract its effects.
Marcos, swept into office this spring, is already drawing distinctions both subtle and obvious between himself and his voluble predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, who alienated many international partners with his violent approach to fighting drug trafficking and the coarse rhetoric he used to galvanize supporters.
Asked if Duterte went too far with his lethal drug crackdown, Marcos redirected the criticism toward those who carried out the plan.
“His people went too far sometimes,” Marcos said on Friday. “We have seen many cases where policemen, other operatives, some were just shady characters that we didn’t quite know where they came from and who they were working for. But now we’ve gone after them.”
Marcos, 65, sat for a wide-ranging interview in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s annual leaders’ meeting. Three months into his administration, he seemed energetic and enthusiastic — and eager to project his vision for the nation beyond its borders.
On Thursday, he met with US President Joe Biden in a bid to strengthen the sometimes complicated ties that have ebbed and flowed between the two nations since the Philippines spent four decades as an American colony in the early 20th century.
“There have been bits and pieces where they were not perhaps ideal,” Marcos said. “But in the end, that overall trajectory has been to strengthen and strengthen and strengthen our relationship.”
In addition to Duterte, Marcos also must draw distinctions between himself and the most iconic figure in the Philippines’ public sphere: his late father, whose name he shares. Ferdinand Marcos Sr., hero to some and plundering dictator to others, ruled from the 1960s to the 1980s, including a tumultuous period of martial law and repression. He made the family reputation an indelible part of Filipino history.
Addressing the family legacy directly is something the son has been loath to do, at least explicitly, though he vehemently rejects use of the term “dictator” to describe his father’s rule, To him, the political baggage of his parents is a remnant of the past.
“I did not indulge in any of that political back-and-forth concerning the Marcos family,” he said. “All I spoke about was, ‘What are we going to do to get into a better place?’ And people responded.”
Engaging, he said, would have simply been a retread — and an unnecessary one. “It doesn’t help. It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “So what’s the point?”
When it comes to his predecessor, Marcos treads a nuanced political line as well. Distinguishing himself from Duterte’s in-your-face rule can benefit him at home and internationally, but Duterte’s popularity helped catapult him into office, and the former president’s daughter Sara is Marcos’ vice president.
The extrajudicial killings associated with Duterte’s yearslong crackdown provoked calls that his administration should be investigated from the outside, and he vowed not to rejoin the International Criminal Court — a precept that Marcos agrees with. After all, Marcos asked, why should a country with a functioning legal system be judged from elsewhere?
“We have a judiciary. It’s not perfect,” he said. “I do not understand why we need an outside adjudicator to tell us how to investigate, who to investigate, how to go about it.”
Marcos cast the coronavirus pandemic as many other leaders have — as a balancing act between keeping people safe and making sure life can push forward.
“We took a very extreme position in the Philippines, and we eventually had the longest lockdown in any country in the world,” he said. “That was the choice of the previous government. And now, we are now coming out of it.”
In recent days, he has both removed a national mandate to wear masks outdoors and extended a “state of calamity” — something he said he didn’t necessarily want to do, but keeping the declaration in place allows more people to continue getting help.
“It’s not very encouraging when people look at your country and they see, ‘Well, it’s under a state of calamity.’ That’s not good for tourists. It’s not good for visitors. It’s not good for business,” Marcos said.
Encouraging ties with China, particularly given Beijing’s aggressive maritime policies, might be a daunting prospect for a nation so closely and historically aligned with the United States. But, Marcos says, it’s possible — and necessary.
“It is a very fine line that we have to tread in the Philippines,” the president said. “We do not subscribe to the old Cold War ‘spheres of influence.’ ... So it’s really guided by national interest, number one. And second, the maintenance of peace.”
Peace comes in many flavors. Last week, Marcos traveled to the southern part of the nation — a predominantly Muslim area of a predominantly Catholic country — to express support for a multiyear effort to help a onetime rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, give up their guns and govern their autonomous region effectively.
While Moro has come into the government fold, smaller militant groups including the violent Abu Sayyaf have continued to fight the government and wage sporadic attacks, especially in impoverished rural regions with weak law enforcement. Marcos dismissed Abu Sayyaf as a group that no longer has a cause other than “banditry.”
“I don’t believe they are a movement anymore. They are not fighting for anything,” Marcos said. “They are just criminals.”
Marcos did not specify precisely why the Philippines needed to be reintroduced, though the country’s image took a hit from 2016 to 2022 under the Duterte administration.
“The purpose, really, that I have brought to this visit here in New York ... has been to try to reintroduce the Philippines to our American friends, both in the private sector and in the public sector,” he said.
And after the pandemic truly ends, he said, the nation needs to find a fruitful path and follow it.
“We have to position ourselves. We have to be clever about forecasting, being a bit prescient,” he said.
“We do not want to return to whatever it is we were doing pre-pandemic,” Marcos said. “We want to be able to be involved and be a vital part of the new global economy, of the new global political situation.”