Taiwan leader: China drills improved military’s combat abilities

Taiwan leader: China drills improved military’s combat abilities
President Tsai Ing-wen visits a military base in Hualien, Taiwan on Sept. 6, 2022. (Taiwan Presidential Office via Reuters)
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Updated 06 September 2022

Taiwan leader: China drills improved military’s combat abilities

Taiwan leader: China drills improved military’s combat abilities
  • Taiwan’s military holding two days of drills starting late Tuesday
  • China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control

TAIPEI: The combat skills of Taiwan’s military are now “more mature” and it is better able to fight thanks to having to repeatedly scramble to see off Chinese forces during their recent drills, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday.
China staged war games in the immediate aftermath of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei last month, angered by what it saw as a strong show of US support for the island Beijing claims as its own territory. Chinese military activities close to Taiwan have continued since then.
Speaking to air force personnel at the Hualien air base on Taiwan’s east coast, Tsai said the situation around the Taiwan Strait remained tense and the threat had not gone away.
“In the face of challenges, our national military has calmly responded to the enemy’s intents at intrusion and have tenaciously defended the country’s security,” she said, according to a transcript of the remarks released by the presidential office.
“I believe that after this period of combat readiness missions, our national military’s combat skills are more mature and its combat power is more powerful.”
Tsai added that she was “extremely proud” of the armed forces.
The Hualien base has hangers cut out of the side of a mountain and is home to Lockheed Martin Corp. F-16s.
Taiwan’s military is also holding two days of drills starting late Tuesday around Hengchun on the far southern tip of the island. Apache attack helicopters, Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighters, artillery and drones will feature in the drills.
Taiwan’s armed forces are well-equipped but dwarfed by China’s. Tsai has been overseeing a modernization program and has made increasing defense spending a priority.
Taiwan has set defense as the theme for this year’s Oct. 10 national day, with the slogan “You and me join together to protect the land and defend the country,” organizers said on Tuesday.
Tsai will oversee a military parade that day and give a key note speech.
Taiwan’s democratically-elected government says that as the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island, it has no right to claim it or decide its future, which can only be set by Taiwan’s people.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.


Protect, advance women for a better South Sudan, pope says

Protect, advance women for a better South Sudan, pope says
Updated 34 sec ago

Protect, advance women for a better South Sudan, pope says

Protect, advance women for a better South Sudan, pope says
JUBA: Pope Francis joined other Christian leaders and the UN on Saturday in urging the protection and advancement of women in South Sudan, where rape has been a weapon of war, child brides are common and most girls do not reach secondary education.
The rights of girls and women was a recurring theme on the penultimate day of the pope’s visit to South Sudan, an unprecedented joint “pilgrimage of peace” with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Church of Scotland Moderator Iain Greenshields.
“Please, protect, respect, appreciate and honor every woman, every girl, young woman, mother and grandmother. Otherwise, there will be no future,” the pope said during a meeting of the three leaders with people displaced by conflict.
Later, Welby returned to the theme in his address to about 50,000 people at an ecumenical prayer vigil at a mausoleum to South Sudan’s liberation hero John Garang.
“Young men, you will value and honor women, never raping, never violent, never cruel, never using them as if they were there to satisfy desire,” he said.
“Women of South Sudan, I know that on top of the grief of conflict and the responsibility to provide for your families, many of you live with the trauma of sexual violence and the daily fear of mistreatment in your own homes.”
A United Nations report on South Sudan issued last March condemned widespread sexual violence against women and girls in conflict and said it was “fueled by systemic impunity.”
The report said “widespread rape is being perpetrated by all armed groups across the country, often as part of military tactics for which government and military leaders are responsible.”
South Sudan broke away from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into civil war in 2013 with ethnic groups turning on each other. Despite a 2018 peace deal between the two main antagonists, bouts of inter-ethnic fighting have continued to kill and displace large numbers of civilians.
PROTECT, RESPECT, HONOUR
At the event where the three religious leaders heard accounts from children living in displaced persons camps, the resident UN humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, also raised the issue of pervasive sexual violence against women and girls.
The pope responded by calling on everyone in South Sudan “to ensure that women are protected, respected, valued and honored.”
Francis said that if women are given opportunities “they will have the ability to change the face of South Sudan, to give it a peaceful and cohesive development!“
Sister Orla Treacy, an Irish member of the Loreto Sisters religious order who runs a school in Rumbek, north of the capital, and works to prevent child marriages, said less than 5 percent of girls finish secondary school. About 10 percent of 15-year-old girls and 52 percent of 18-year-old girls in South Sudan are married, she said.
Treacy and a group of students had walked about 200 km (125 miles) from Lakes State to see the pope. She said the governor of that region had recently signed a decree promising to stop child marriages.
South Sudan has the world’s highest maternal mortality rate, according to the World Bank, and poverty and hunger are rife across the country, with two thirds of the population needing humanitarian assistance as a result of conflict as well as three years of catastrophic floods.

Biden says US is ‘going to take care of’ Chinese balloon

Biden says US is ‘going to take care of’ Chinese balloon
Updated 04 February 2023

Biden says US is ‘going to take care of’ Chinese balloon

Biden says US is ‘going to take care of’ Chinese balloon
  • Biden made his remark in response to a question about whether the United States would shoot down the high-altitude surveillance balloon

SYRACUSE, United States: President Joe Biden said on Saturday that the United States is “going to take care of” a suspected Chinese spy balloon that has been tracked flying across the United States.
Biden made his remark in response to a question about whether the United States would shoot down the high-altitude surveillance balloon, which has been flying across the country in what Washington calls a “clear violation” of US sovereignty.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a visit to China that had been expected to start on Friday because of the balloon.
The president did not elaborate on what was planned. Military leaders considered shooting down the high-altitude surveillance balloon this week but eventually recommended against this because of the risk of falling debris, officials said.
China expressed regret that an “airship” used for civilian meteorological and other scientific purposes had strayed into US airspace.
The Pentagon said on Friday that another Chinese balloon was observed over Latin America, without saying where exactly.


Austrian avalanches leave three dead

Austrian avalanches leave three dead
Updated 04 February 2023

Austrian avalanches leave three dead

Austrian avalanches leave three dead
  • "One winter sports enthusiast was killed in an avalanche in Kaltenbach on Saturday," said a police spokesman
  • A 32-year-old Chinese man, also said to be skiing away from the designated routes, died in an avalanche in the resort of Soelden

VIENNA: A series of avalanches in Austria has left three people dead since Friday, as the ski season gets into full swing, with authorities warning of the risks posed by a particularly unstable snow cover.
“One winter sports enthusiast was killed in an avalanche in Kaltenbach on Saturday,” a police spokesman told AFP, declining to give any information about the circumstances of the accident in the small Alpine village.
According to the Austrian news agency APA, the victim was a 17-year-old New Zealander who was skiing off-piste.
On Friday, a 32-year-old Chinese man, also said to be skiing away from the designated routes, died in an avalanche in the resort of Soelden.
A third victim was found dead Saturday after being reported missing the previous day.
APA reported that the man was 50 years old and died in the Kleinwalsertal valley on the border with Germany.
Over the past two days, intensive snowfall and wind have increased the avalanche danger in the Alpine Tyrol and Vorarlberg regions.
Warnings have been issued in both these popular ski resort regions, urging winter sports enthusiasts to exercise caution.
However an alert level four, on a scale of five, has not prevented many holidaymakers from venturing off the marked slopes, authorities said.
The avalanche situation also led to numerous rescue operations on Saturday, made hazardous by the weather conditions.
The February school holidays have begun in Vienna and resorts have filled up, after a gloomy start to the season, marked by the absence of snow at low and medium altitudes.
In recent years, in Austria, a leading winter sports destination, there have been an annual average of 20 deaths on the slopes.


Ukraine, Russia swap prisoners; bodies of British volunteers returned

Ukraine, Russia swap prisoners; bodies of British volunteers returned
Updated 04 February 2023

Ukraine, Russia swap prisoners; bodies of British volunteers returned

Ukraine, Russia swap prisoners; bodies of British volunteers returned
  • The Ukrainian president's chief of staff said 116 Ukrainians had been returned
  • Russian news agencies cited Moscow's defence ministry saying 63 Russian POWs had been freed

DUBAI: Ukraine and Russia traded almost 200 prisoners of war in a swap announced separately by both sides on Saturday, with the bodies of two British volunteers also being sent back to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said 116 Ukrainians had been returned, while Russian news agencies cited Moscow’s defense ministry saying 63 Russian POWs had been freed.
“We managed to return 116 of our people, defenders of Mariupol, partisans from Kherson, snipers from the Bakhmut (front) and other heroes of ours,” Yermak wrote on Telegram.
Yermak also said the bodies of British volunteer aid workers Andrew Bagshaw and Chris Parry had been sent back to Ukraine.
Bagshaw and Parry were killed during an attempted humanitarian evacuation in eastern Ukraine in January, Parry’s family has previously said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the released Russian servicemen included “sensitive category” persons.


Islamophobia ‘every bit as big an issue as racism,’ says Jemima Khan

Islamophobia ‘every bit as big an issue as racism,’ says Jemima Khan
Updated 04 February 2023

Islamophobia ‘every bit as big an issue as racism,’ says Jemima Khan

Islamophobia ‘every bit as big an issue as racism,’ says Jemima Khan
  • ‘It’s hard to make a film where Muslims are the good guys in America,’ says screenwriter ahead of new release
  • ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ also explores pros, cons of dating, arranged marriage

LONDON: Islamophobia is “every bit as big an issue as racism,” UK screenwriter Jemima Khan has told Sky News ahead of the release of her new film “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”

The ex-wife of former Pakistani cricketer and Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to the channel about the rom-com — inspired by her own life — which explores Islamophobia as well as the “pros and cons of both styles” of dating and arranged marriage, “whether it’s too much choice with apps” or “too little choice with arranged marriage.”

The main character of “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” Zoe, is a filmmaker. The release explores narratives surrounding Islamophobia on screen, as well as the subject of arranged marriage.

“It’s always the Pakistani who’s the terrorist or the suicide bomber or the fanatic. There’s that particular line (in the film) ... ‘We’ve got to leave the airport … We have to leave early because I need to leave time to be randomly selected’,” Jemima said.

“I’m aware from experience of traveling with my kids, particularly to America where we have to leave extra time in between any flight connections because they have Pakistani names that are not Anglicized — Sulaiman and Kasim Khan — they do get taken off and questioned in a way that I don’t.

“It’s hard to make a film where Muslims are the good guys in America … where they’re much more familiar with Muslims playing the baddies. Islamophobia I think is a real issue. I think it’s every bit as big an issue as racism.”

The late Princess Diana’s marriage to then-Prince Charles was “essentially arranged,” Jemima said, discussing the film’s other topic.

She added that arranged marriages are a cross-cultural phenomenon, discussing the high-profile marriage of Princess Diana — whom she enjoyed a close friendship with — and Charles.

“Their marriage was essentially arranged. It used to happen here, even with our royal family. I know it can often seem like a really alien concept, but most marriages even in the world today are arranged if you look at the global population,” Jemima said.

“It wasn’t so long ago that it was kind of the norm even in the UK. There’s a real issue where arranged marriage keeps getting conflated with forced marriage.

“As I get older, I think, if I had parents who could have agreed — and were functional and good at these things — I definitely could have benefited from being introduced to suitable candidates.”

Her relocation to Pakistan aged 21 dispelled some of her beliefs surrounding arranged marriage, she told Sky News, adding that she had “quite a standard, fairly negative idea about arranged marriage and how it fits into the modern world.”

She saw “very successful and happy arranged marriages,” but noticed that they failed to be represented in mass media.

“What’s Love Got To Do With It?” releases on Feb. 24 in the UK.