China sends warships and aircraft around Taiwan for second day

China sends warships and aircraft around Taiwan for second day
Two Chinese military helicopters fly past a PLA Navy tugboat, as seen from Pingtan island, the closest point to Taiwan, in China’s southeast Fujian province on April 7, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2023
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China sends warships and aircraft around Taiwan for second day

China sends warships and aircraft around Taiwan for second day
  • Military ship and at least three army helicopters transiting through Pingtan island, China’s nearest outpost to Taiwan

TAIPEI: China sent warships and aircraft near Taiwan for a second day on Friday and insisted the island remains “an inseparable part of China,” after President Tsai Ing-wen angered Beijing by meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Three Chinese warships sailed in waters surrounding the self-ruled island, while a fighter jet and an anti-submarine helicopter also crossed the island’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), Taiwan’s defense ministry said.
Hours before Tsai met McCarthy in Los Angeles on her way back from Latin America, China’s Shandong aircraft carrier sailed through Taiwan’s southeastern waters on its way to the western Pacific.
Tsai told reporters her government was committed to ensuring “the free and democratic way of life of the people of Taiwan,” before she left Los Angeles where she was stopping on her way back from Latin America.
“We also hope to do our best to maintain peace and stability between the two sides,” she added.
Beijing said on Friday that “Taiwan is an inseparable part of China,” after repeatedly warning against the meeting.
“China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will never be divided,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular press briefing.
“The future of Taiwan lies in reunification with the motherland.”
AFP journalists on Pingtan island, China’s nearest outpost to Taiwan, saw a military ship and at least three army helicopters transiting through the strait on Friday afternoon.
The silver-grey Dongtuo-859 tugboat cruised southwards, about one kilometer from the shore, while the two aircraft flew northwards over the waters at fairly low altitude.
It was not immediately clear if the movements represented an enhancement of normal patrols that Beijing conducts in the region.
Last August, China deployed warships, missiles and fighter jets around Taiwan for its largest show of force in years, following a trip to the island by McCarthy’s predecessor Nancy Pelosi.
Beijing’s response to the Tsai-McCarthy meeting has so far been more muted and China’s ADIZ incursions in the past two days have not risen beyond the activities of an average week.
But Taiwan is still on alert, with Premier Chen Chien-jen warning on Friday that Taipei’s defense and security agencies were keeping a close eye on developments.
On Thursday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said three warships had been detected around the Taiwan Strait and one Chinese naval helicopter crossed the island’s ADIZ.
The display prompted calls from the United States asking China “to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful diplomacy.”
The ADIZ is not the same as Taiwan’s territorial airspace, including a far greater area that overlaps with part of China’s own ADIZ and even some of the mainland.
McCarthy, who is second in line to the US presidency, had originally planned to go to Taiwan himself but opted instead to meet Tsai in California.
The decision was viewed as a compromise that would underscore support for Taiwan but avoid inflaming tensions with China, a move analysts say has so far proven successful.
Tsai said on Thursday that it was “quite common for us to meet our US friends during transits.”
“I also hope the Chinese side can exercise self-restraint and don’t overreact,” she added.
McCarthy had vowed that US arms sales to Taiwan — which have infuriated the Chinese leadership — would continue, in what he said was a proven strategy to dissuade aggression.
“It is a critical lesson that we learned through Ukraine, that the idea of just sanctions in the future is not going to stop somebody” who wants to wage war, he said.
On Friday, China slapped sanctions on Taipei’s de facto ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, banning her from entering China and accusing her of “deliberately inciting cross-strait confrontation.”
Taiwan condemned the sanctions, saying Beijing was attempting to “further suppress our country’s international space.”
“Coercion and suppression will not change the objective facts, but will only strengthen our government’s belief in upholding freedom and democracy,” Taiwan’s foreign office said in a statement.
Beijing also announced sanctions against the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based conservative think tank, as well as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, which hosted the meeting.
The two organizations are now barred from engaging in transactions and cooperation with Chinese entities.
On Thursday, Taiwan said Chinese coast guard vessels were “obstructing” trade by carrying out on-site inspections on cargo and passenger ships.
Tsai said Taipei’s national security team was “closely monitoring the situation” to ensure the safety of its ships “and to prevent China’s interference in our territorial waters.”


Spanish politician shot in Madrid points finger at Iran

Spanish politician shot in Madrid points finger at Iran
Updated 9 sec ago
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Spanish politician shot in Madrid points finger at Iran

Spanish politician shot in Madrid points finger at Iran
MADRID: A right-wing Spanish politician who was shot in November in Madrid on Friday accused Iran of being behind his attempted murder during his first public appearance since the attack.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a founder of Spain's far-right Vox party and former head of its centre-right People's Party in Catalonia who has long supported Iran's opposition movement, was shot in the face in broad daylight near his home in the upscale Salamanca neighbourhood on November 9 by a motorcycle passenger.
"I have no doubt that it was the Iranian regime," the 78-year-old, who was European Parliament vice-president between 2009 and 2014, told a news conference in the Spanish capital.
Tehran has "a long tradition, a track record, of extraterritorial terrorist activities" against "dissidents and against foreigners who support then," he added, without offering any proof to back up his claim.
Four people have been arrested as part of the investigation into the shooting, but the suspected gunman -- a French national of Tunisian origin with several previous convictions in France, remains at large.
Police have not commented on a possible motive for the shooting.
Vidal-Quadras, who already pointed the finger at Iran when he was questioned by police after the shooting, said it was a "miracle" that he survived.
"I made a movement of my head that meant that the shot, which was supposed to be fatal, was not," he said.
The bullet entered one side of his jaw and exited the other, and Vidal-Quadras spent time in hospital recovering from a jaw fracture.
"The detonation sounded like a thunderclap in my head, in fact I have a perforated eardrum, and I started bleeding, it caused a puddle on the floor," he said.
Vidal-Quadras said he believes the quick intervention of a passer-by, who stopped the bleeding with a piece of clothing, saved his life.
He said he has suffered from after-effects since the shooting, including "some paralysis of the facial muscles".
Vidal-Quadras, a top member of the International Committee in Search of Justice which supports the "Iranian resistance", has long called for the international community to harden its position towards Iran.

Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta

Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta
Updated 23 February 2024
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Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta

Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta
  • Some 21 migrants were rescued and taken to a migrant center
  • They are believed to be from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt

VALLETTA, Malta: Five migrants, including a woman, died when their boat capsized as they were being rescued off Malta on Friday, the island’s armed forces said.
Another eight were injured and taken to hospital, including two who swallowed a considerable amount of seawater and fuel.
Armed Forces of Malta deputy commander Col. Edric Zahra told reporters that the incident happened at about midday when the eight-meter (26-ft) boat was four miles (6.5 km) south of Malta.
Some 21 migrants were rescued and taken to a migrant center. They are believed to be from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt.
Mediterranean sea crossings from North Africa to Italy or Malta are among the most dangerous migration routes in the world. Last year almost 2,500 migrants died or went missing on those routes, the International Organization for Migration says.
The vast majority of migrants head for Italy. Malta’s armed forces rescued 380 migrants at sea last year, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said in parliament in January.


Russia says its forces push further west after taking Ukraine’s Avdiivka

Russia says its forces push further west after taking Ukraine’s Avdiivka
Updated 23 February 2024
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Russia says its forces push further west after taking Ukraine’s Avdiivka

Russia says its forces push further west after taking Ukraine’s Avdiivka
  • Russian forces had also destroyed a number of Western-provided Ukrainian weapons
  • The frontlines in the war had not shifted substantially since late 2022 before the taking of Avdiivka

MOSCOW: Russian forces have advanced further to the west after taking control of the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, the defense ministry said on Friday.
It said Russian forces had also destroyed a number of Western-provided Ukrainian weapons in the past week including seven British-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles, a US Patriot anti-aircraft guided missile and launch vehicle, and 42 HIMARS rockets fired by multiple launch systems.
Reuters could not independently verify battlefield reports.
The frontlines in the war, which started two years ago on Saturday, had not shifted substantially since late 2022 before the taking of Avdiivka, and Russia still controls just under a fifth of Ukrainian territory.
The capture of Avdiivka, following months of fighting with heavy casualties on both sides, was Russia’s first significant gain since taking the city of Bakhmut last May.
After taking Avdiivka, units of the “Center” group of Russian forces “continued advancing in a westerly direction,” the defense ministry statement said.
“In cooperation with aviation and artillery, they defeated accumulations of manpower and equipment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” in six nearby settlements, it said.


UK, EU border agency sign migration pact

UK, EU border agency sign migration pact
Updated 23 February 2024
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UK, EU border agency sign migration pact

UK, EU border agency sign migration pact
  • Friday’s agreement provides for the exchange of intelligence between Frontex and the UK Border Force
  • It also agrees to collaborate on the development of new technologies, such as the use of drones to protect borders, the Home Office added

LONDON: The United Kingdom on Friday signed an agreement with the EU border agency Frontex to jointly crack down on irregular immigration, the government in London said.
Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made stopping migrants from crossing the Channel on boats from France a priority before a general election due this year.
Friday’s agreement provides for the exchange of intelligence between Frontex and the UK Border Force to help disrupt people-smuggling gangs, Britain’s interior ministry said in a statement.
It also agrees to collaborate on the development of new technologies, such as the use of drones to protect borders, the Home Office added.
UK Border Force director general Phil Douglas and Frontex executive director Hans Leijtens signed the arrangement in London, witnessed by UK interior minister James Cleverly and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.
“Organized immigration crime and people smuggling are global challenges that require shared solutions and ambitions,” Cleverly said.
“Our landmark working arrangement between the UK and Frontex is another crucial step in tackling illegal migration, securing our borders and stopping the boats.”
The UK government says the number of migrants arriving on England’s south coast in rudimentary vessels fell by a third last year from a record high of 45,000 migrants in 2022.
The UK government called the deal “the latest step” in its “plan to tackle illegal migration and criminal gangs,” with the issue set to feature prominently in the general election campaign.


New Delhi calls on Moscow to release Indians on Russian front line

New Delhi calls on Moscow to release Indians on Russian front line
Updated 23 February 2024
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New Delhi calls on Moscow to release Indians on Russian front line

New Delhi calls on Moscow to release Indians on Russian front line
  • Testimonies of Indians in Russian army sent shockwaves across the media this week
  • Government urges Indian nationals to ‘stay away’ from Russia’s conflict

New Delhi: India's Ministry of External Affairs said on Friday it was in contact with Moscow regarding the release of Indian nationals, who according to media reports have been deployed in Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Testimonies of Indian men hired as “army security helpers” for Russian troops, their families and an agent involved in their employment sent shockwaves across the Indian media after The Hindu daily broke the news earlier this week.
A few Indians are known to have volunteered to join the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine created to counter Russia’s invasion since February 2022, but until The Hindu’s report, there was no indication of Indian nationals fighting on the Russian side.
Those who spoke to the newspaper said they had been given basic army training and expected to continue as kitchen helpers, but later were sent to the front instead.
Most of the men came from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir, and said they had been told they would not be sent to the battlefield.
The Indian government was “aware that a few Indian nationals have signed up for support jobs with the Russian army,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in a statement.
“The Indian Embassy has regularly taken up this matter with the relevant Russian authorities for their early discharge. We urge all Indian nationals to exercise due caution and stay away from this conflict.”
The issue has been flagged on social media by lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, who had been approached by some of the men’s relatives.
On Wednesday, Owaisi made a plea to Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in an X post, which has since gone viral.
“Kindly use your good offices to bring these men back home,” he said. “Their lives are at risk & their families are justifiably worried.”