Pelosi Condemns ‘Illegal’ Azerbaijan Attack On Armenia

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference in the Parliament in Yerevan on September 18, 2022. AFP

 

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday condemned what she described as an “illegal” attack by Azerbaijan on Armenia that sparked the worst fighting since their 2020 war.

Baku and Yerevan have accused each other of initiating the border clashes on Tuesday, which claimed the lives of more than 200 people.

“We strongly condemn those attacks — on behalf of Congress — which threaten (the) prospects of the much-needed peace agreement,” Pelosi told a news conference in Yerevan.

“Armenia has particular importance to us because of the focus on security following an illegal and deadly attack by Azerbaijan on the Armenian territory.”


READ ALSO: Security Scare Hits Mourning As King Charles Meets Foreign Leaders


Pelosi said the attack was an “assault on (the) sovereignty of Armenia”.

Hostilities between the Caucasus arch foes ended overnight on Thursday thanks to mediation by the United States, Armenian parliament speaker Alen Simonyan said.

Earlier attempts by Russia to broker a truce failed.

“We are grateful to the United States for the agreement of the fragile ceasefire reached by their mediation,” he told a news conference alongside Pelosi.

US-Armenia rapprochement

Pelosi’s visit a growing closeness between Washington and Yerevan where frustration is brewing over the lack of support from Armenia’s traditional ally Moscow which is distracted by its nearly seven-month war in Ukraine.

Russia — which has a treaty obligation to defend Armenia in the event of foreign invasion, but which also has close ties with Baku — did not rush to help Yerevan despite a formal demand for military help.

“We asked for military help and our demand was not accepted. Obviously, we are not happy,” Armenia’s security council chairman, Artyom Grigoryan, said Friday.

Pelosi, who arrived in Yerevan on Saturday for a three-day visit, is the highest-ranking US official to travel to Armenia since the tiny nation gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

On Sunday morning, a tearful Pelosi laid flowers at Yerevan’s hilltop memorial of the 1.5 million Armenians killed in the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

Armenia has long sought international recognition of the bloodletting as genocide — a claim fiercely rejected by Turkey but supported by many other countries.

Pelosi said she was “proud” to travel to Yerevan after US President Joe Biden formally acknowledged the Armenian genocide last year.

“It is the moral duty of all to never forget: an obligation that has taken on heightened urgency as atrocities are perpetrated around the globe, including by Russia against Ukraine,” Pelosi said on Saturday.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars — in the 1990s and in 2020 — over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh an Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan.

Pelosi said: “In the Congress, in the bipartisan way, we hold (Baku’s ally) Turkey responsible — as well as Azerbaijan — for the conflict that exists in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Decades-long talks

Together with France and Russia, the US co-chairs the Minsk Group of mediators, which had led decades-long peace talks between Baku and Yerevan under the aegis of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Minsk Group has been largely defunct as Moscow faces growing isolation on the world stage following its February invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union had taken a lead role in mediating the Armenia-Azerbaijan normalisation process.

Analysts have said the hostilities have largely undone Western efforts to bring Baku and Yerevan closer to a peace deal.

The six-weeks war in 2020 claimed the lives of more than 6,500 troops from both sides and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades, and Moscow deployed about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.

China Scraps Cooperation With US Over Taiwan Spat

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd R), joined by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (R), speaks while facing Yang Jiechi (2nd L), director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, and Wang Yi (L), China's Foreign Minister at the opening session of US-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021. Frederic J. BROWN / POOL / AFP
File photo: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd R), joined by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (R), speaks while facing Yang Jiechi (2nd L), director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, and Wang Yi (L), China’s Foreign Minister at the opening session of US-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021. Frederic J. BROWN / POOL / AFP

 

China said Friday it was ending cooperation with the United States on a litany of key issues including climate change, anti-drug efforts and military talks, as relations between the two superpowers nosedive over Taiwan.

Beijing has reacted furiously to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, which it claims as its territory and has vowed to retake — by force if necessary.

It has since Thursday encircled the self-ruled, democratic island with a series of huge military drills that have been roundly condemned by the United States and other Western allies.

And Friday saw its foreign ministry hit back further against the United States, suspending talks and cooperation on multiple agreements between the two — including on climate change.

The world’s two largest polluters last year pledged to work together to accelerate climate action this decade, and vowed to meet regularly to “address the climate crisis”.

READ ALSOUS Says Russia Will Fake Scene Around Mass POW Deaths To Blame Ukraine

But that deal looks shaky as relations sink to some of their lowest levels in years, as do agreements on everything from talks on military matters to anti-drug cooperation.

Pelosi — who Beijing also hit with sanctions for the visit — has defended her trip to Taiwan, saying Friday that Washington would “not allow” China to isolate the island.

In Washington, the White House summoned China’s ambassador to Washington to condemn Beijing’s “irresponsible” behaviour over Taiwan, a senior US official said Friday.

Taiwan has also condemned Beijing’s response to the visit, with premier Su Tseng-chang calling for allies to push for de-escalation.

“(We) didn’t expect that the evil neighbour next door would show off its power at our door and arbitrarily jeopardise the busiest waterways in the world with its military exercises,” he told reporters.

‘Our Motherland Is Powerful’ 

Beijing has said its military exercises will continue until midday Sunday, and Taipei reported that 68 Chinese planes and 13 warships crossed the “median line” that runs down the Taiwan Strait on Friday.

AFP journalists on the Chinese island of Pingtan saw a fighter jet flying overhead, prompting tourists to snap photos as it flew along the coast.

A Chinese military vessel sailing through the Taiwan Strait was also visible, they added.

China’s drills involved a “conventional missile firepower assault” in waters to the east of Taiwan, the Chinese military said.

And state broadcaster CCTV reported that Chinese missiles had flown directly over Taiwan — a major escalation if officially confirmed.

On the Chinese island of Pingtan, local tourists proudly extolled their country’s military might against its much smaller neighbour.

“Our motherland is powerful. We are not afraid of having war with Taiwan, the US or any country in the world,” Liu, a 40-year-old tourist from Zhejiang province, told AFP.

“We hope to unify Taiwan soon. We are not scared of anyone,” he added.

“We don’t want to start a war, but we are not afraid of others.”

Wang, a businesswoman, was more sanguine about prospects for cross-strait ties.

“I hope China can unify Taiwan, but I don’t want war,” she said. “I hope this issue can be solved in a peaceful way.”

‘Significant Escalation’ 

The scale and intensity of China’s drills have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies.

“These provocative actions are a significant escalation,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after talks with Southeast Asian foreign ministers at an ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh.

“The fact is, the speaker’s visit was peaceful. There is no justification for this extreme, disproportionate and escalatory military response,” he added.

China’s foreign minister countered with a warning for the United States, urging Washington not to escalate tensions.

“America’s habit is to create a problem and then use this problem to achieve its goals. But this approach will not work with China,” Wang Yi said at a press conference on the sidelines of the same summit.

“We want to issue a warning to the US not to act rashly and not to create a bigger crisis.”

Japan has lodged a formal diplomatic complaint against Beijing, with five of China’s missiles believed to have landed in its exclusive economic zone.

On Friday, Japan’s foreign ministry said China “cancelled” a planned bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit.

And Australia — which has a troubled relationship with China, its largest trading partner — condemned the drills as “disproportionate and destabilising”.

The manoeuvres are taking place along some of the world’s busiest shipping routes, used to disseminate the global supply of vital semiconductors and electronic equipment produced in East Asia.

AFP

‘Evil Neighbour’: Taiwan Condemns China Over War Drills

his screen grab from a video by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command on August 4, 2022 made available on the Eurovision Social Newswire (ESN) platform via AFPTV shows a missile being fired during a Chinese military exercise in China on August 4, 2022. (Photo by various sources / AFP) 

 

Taiwan blasted its “evil neighbour next door” on Friday after China encircled the island with a series of huge military drills that were condemned by the United States and other Western allies.

During Thursday’s military exercises, which continued Friday, China fired ballistic missiles and deployed both fighter jets and warships around Taiwan.

The People’s Liberation Army declared multiple no-go danger zones around Taiwan, straddling some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and at some points coming within 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the island’s shores.

Beijing has said the exercises will continue until midday Sunday, and Taipei reported that Chinese fighter jets and ships crossed the “median line” that runs down the Taiwan Strait on Friday morning.

READ ALSOUS Says Russia Will Fake Scene Around Mass POW Deaths To Blame Ukraine

“As of 11am, multiple batches of Chinese warplanes and warships conducted exercises around the Taiwan Strait and crossed the median line of the strait,” Taipei’s defence ministry said in a statement.

The median line is an unofficial but once largely adhered-to border that runs down the middle of the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan and China.

Chinese incursions have become more common since Beijing declared in 2020 that the unofficial border no longer existed.

AFP journalists on the picturesque Chinese island of Pingtan saw a fighter jet flying overhead, prompting tourists to snap photos as it flew along the coast.

A Chinese military vessel was also visible sailing through the Taiwan Strait, they added.

Beijing has insisted its war games are a “necessary” response to a visit to the self-ruled, democratic island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but Washington countered that China’s leaders had “chosen to overreact”.

Pelosi defended her visit Friday, saying Washington would “not allow” China to isolate Taiwan.

“We have said from the start that our representation here is not about changing the status quo here in Asia, changing the status quo in Taiwan,” she told reporters in Tokyo on the final leg of an Asia tour.

Taiwan’s premier Su Tseng-chang, meanwhile, called for allies to push for de-escalation.

“(We) didn’t expect that the evil neighbour next door would show off its power at our door and arbitrarily jeopardise the busiest waterways in the world with its military exercises,” he told reporters.

Missiles Over Taiwan 

Tourists look on as a Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, 2022, ahead of massive military drills off Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island.  (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

 

China’s drills involved a “conventional missile firepower assault” in waters to the east of Taiwan, the Chinese military said.

The state-run Xinhua news agency said the Chinese military “flew more than 100 warplanes including fighters and bombers” during the exercises, as well as “over 10 destroyers and frigates”.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that Chinese missiles had flown directly over Taiwan.

Japan also claimed that of the nine missiles it had detected, four were “believed to have flown over Taiwan’s main island”.

Taipei’s military said it would not confirm missile flight paths, in a bid to protect its intelligence capabilities and not allow China “to intimidate us”.

‘Temperature’s Pretty High’ 

China’s ruling Communist Party views Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to one day take it, by force if necessary.

But the scale and intensity of the drills have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies.

“China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” John Kirby, a White House spokesman, told reporters.

“The temperature’s pretty high”, but tensions “can come down very easily by just having the Chinese stop these very aggressive military drills”, he added.

Japan lodged a formal diplomatic complaint against Beijing, with five of China’s missiles believed to have landed in its exclusive economic zone.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called China’s exercises a “serious problem that impacts our national security and the safety of our citizens” and called for an “immediate cancellation of the military drills”.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the “flagrant provocation” by the United States had set an “egregious precedent”.

Trading Places 

The manoeuvres are taking place along some of the busiest shipping routes on the planet, used to supply vital semiconductors and electronic equipment produced in East Asian factory hubs to global markets.

Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau has warned ships to avoid the areas being used for the Chinese drills.

“The shutting down of these transport routes — even temporarily — has consequences not only for Taiwan, but also trade flows tied to Japan and South Korea,” Nick Marro, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s lead analyst for global trade, wrote in a note.

Taiwan said the drills would disrupt 18 international routes passing through its flight information region while several international airlines told AFP they would divert flights.

But markets in Taipei appeared to shrug off the tensions, with the Taiwan Taiex Shipping and Transportation Index, which tracks major shipping and airline stocks, up 2.3 percent early Friday.

And analysts broadly agree that despite all its aggressive posturing, Beijing does not want an active military conflict against the United States and its allies over Taiwan — just yet.

“The last thing Xi wants is an accidental war ignited,” Titus Chen, an associate professor of political science at the National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan, told AFP.

AFP

China Sanctions Pelosi Over Taiwan Visit

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (C) being welcomed by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (L) after landing at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan on August 2, 2022. Taiwanese Foreign Ministry / Handout / Anadolu Agency
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (C) being welcomed by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (L) after landing at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan on August 2, 2022. Taiwanese Foreign Ministry / Handout / Anadolu Agency

 

China’s foreign ministry announced sanctions against US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday after her visit to Taiwan this week, prompting fury and shows of military force from Beijing.

The ministry said Pelosi was “seriously interfering in China’s internal affairs and seriously undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” with the visit, and that Beijing would “impose sanctions on Pelosi and her immediate family”, without giving further details.

China has announced sanctions on a number of US officials in recent years for acting against what it views as its core interests and speaking out on human rights issues in Hong Kong and the northwestern region of Xinjiang, often without specifying punitive measures.

READ ALSO27 Chinese Warplanes Enter Taiwan’s Air Defence Zone: Taipei

In March this year, Beijing said it was imposing visa restrictions on an undisclosed list of United States officials who had allegedly “concocted lies on human rights issues involving China”.

Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, as well as Peter Navarro — a trade adviser to former president Donald Trump — were among those hit by earlier waves of sanctions and are forbidden from entering China as well as doing business with Chinese entities.

Beijing’s ruling Communist Party views self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to one day take it, by force if necessary.

The Chinese government has reacted with bombastic threats and military drills in the lead-up to and aftermath of Pelosi’s visit, which it sees as an unacceptable escalation of ties between Washington and Taiwan’s current pro-independence leaders.

AFP

China Fires Missiles Around Taiwan In Major Military Drills

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (C) being welcomed by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (L) after landing at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan on August 2, 2022. Taiwanese Foreign Ministry / Handout / Anadolu Agency
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (C) being welcomed by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (L) after landing at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan on August 2, 2022. Taiwanese Foreign Ministry / Handout / Anadolu Agency

 

China fired ballistic missiles and deployed fighter jets and warships on Thursday as it held its largest-ever military exercises around Taiwan, a show of force sparked by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.

Pelosi was the highest-profile US official to visit Taiwan in years, defying a series of stark threats from Beijing, which views the self-ruled island as its territory.

In retaliation, China launched a series of exercises in multiple zones around Taiwan, straddling some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and at some points just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the island’s shore.

The drills began around 12 noon local time (0400 GMT), and involved a “conventional missile firepower assault” in waters to the east of Taiwan, the Chinese military said.

Taiwan said the Chinese military fired 11 Dongfeng-class ballistic missiles “in several batches” and condemned the exercises as “irrational actions that undermine regional peace”.

Taipei did not say where the missiles landed or whether they flew over the island.

But Japan, a key US ally, said that of the nine missiles it had detected, four were “believed to have flown over Taiwan’s main island”.

READ ALSO27 Chinese Warplanes Enter Taiwan’s Air Defence Zone: Taipei

Tokyo has lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing over the exercises, with Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi saying five of the missiles were believed to have landed in his country’s exclusive economic zone.

Taipei’s defence ministry said it had detected 22 Chinese fighter jets briefly crossing the Taiwan Strait’s “median line” during Thursday’s exercises.

AFP journalists on the border island of Pingtan saw several small projectiles flying into the sky followed by plumes of white smoke and loud booming sounds.

On the mainland, at what is said to be China’s closest point to Taiwan, AFP saw a batch of five military helicopters flying at a relatively low altitude near a popular tourist spot.

Beijing has said the drills will last until midday on Sunday.

‘Unprecedentedly Close Range’ 

Tourists look on as a Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, 2022, ahead of massive military drills off Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

 

Beijing has defended the drills as “necessary and just”, pinning the blame for the escalation on the United States and its allies.

“In the face of this blatant provocation, we have to take legitimate and necessary countermeasures to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing Thursday.

Military analysts told Beijing’s state broadcaster CCTV that the goal was to practice a possible blockade of the island and contain its pro-independence forces.

“The purpose is to show that the PLA is capable of controlling all the exits of the Taiwan Island, which will be a great deterrent to ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces,” Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at China’s Naval Research Institute, said.

“The operations are conducted in an unprecedentedly close range to the Taiwan Island,” Meng Xiangqing, a military expert, stressed.

“The operations will leave a deterrence effect that is stronger than ever before.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington had contacted Beijing “at every level of government” in recent days to call for calm and stability.

“I hope very much that Beijing will not manufacture a crisis or seek a pretext to increase its aggressive military activity,” Blinken told ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh.

Speaking at the same meeting, Japan’s foreign minister called for an ‘immediate stop’ to China’s military drills near Taiwan.

“China’s actions this time have a serious impact on the peace and stability of the region and the international community,” Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters.

The manoeuvres are taking place along some of the busiest shipping routes on the planet, used to supply vital semiconductors and electronic equipment produced in East Asian factory hubs to global markets.

Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau has issued warnings to ships to avoid the areas being used for the Chinese drills.

The Taiwanese cabinet said the drills would disrupt 18 international routes passing through its flight information region (FIR).

 ‘A Clear Escalation’

 

Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of an invasion, but that threat has intensified under President Xi Jinping, China’s most assertive ruler in a generation.

Analysts said the Chinese leadership is keen to project strength ahead of a crucial ruling party meeting this autumn at which Xi is expected to be given an unprecedented third term.

“China’s announced military exercises represent a clear escalation from the existing baseline of Chinese military activities around Taiwan and from the last Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995-1996,” said Amanda Hsiao, senior analyst for China at the International Crisis Group.

“Beijing is signalling that it rejects Taiwan’s sovereignty.”

Nevertheless, analysts have told AFP that China is not aiming to escalate the situation beyond its control — at least for now.

Titus Chen, an associate professor of political science at the National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan, said: “The last thing Xi wants is an accidental war.”

AFP

US Warns China Over Military Drills After Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit 

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (C) being welcomed by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (L) after landing at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan on August 2, 2022.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (C) being welcomed by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (L) after landing at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan on August 2, 2022. Taiwanese Foreign Ministry / Handout / Anadolu Agency

 

A top US official on Wednesday called China’s military drills in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan irresponsible and warned of the danger of the situation spiraling out of control.

“We believe that what China is doing here is not responsible,” said National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in an interview with National Public Radio.

Beijing on Wednesday geared up for military exercises encircling Taiwan in retaliation for Pelosi’s visit to the democratic self-ruling island that China considers part of its territory.

“Whenever a military engages in a series of activities that include the possibility of missile tests, of live fire exercises, of fighter jets buzzing around the skies and ships moving around on the seas, the possibility of some kind of incident is real,” Sullivan said.

He urged Beijing to de-escalate tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

READ ALSO27 Chinese Warplanes Enter Taiwan’s Air Defence Zone: Taipei

“What we are hopeful for is that the PRC acts responsibly and avoids the kind of escalation that could lead to a mistake or miscalculation in the air or on the seas,” Sullivan said, using China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.

Pelosi, the second in line to the US presidency, departed Taiwan Wednesday morning, having defied a series of increasingly stark threats from Beijing, which considers her visit a major provocation.

China reacted with fury, announcing what it said were “necessary and just” military drills in the seas just off Taiwan’s coast — some of the world’s busiest waterways.

After Pelosi’s departure, Taiwan’s defense ministry announced late Wednesday that 27 Chinese warplanes had entered the island’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ).

Over the last two years, Beijing has ramped up military incursions into Taiwan’s ADIZ — which is not the same as the island’s territorial airspace, but includes a far greater area — but that is still a relatively rare occurrence.

AFP

China Begins Major Taiwan Military Drills After Pelosi Visit

Tourists look on as a Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, 2022, ahead of massive military drills off Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

 

China’s largest-ever military exercises encircling Taiwan kicked off Thursday, in a show of force straddling vital international shipping lanes after a visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi left Taiwan Wednesday after a trip that defied a series of stark threats from Beijing, which views the self-ruled island as its territory.

Pelosi was the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years, and said her trip made it “unequivocally clear” that the United States would not abandon a democratic ally.

It sparked a furious reaction from Beijing, which vowed “punishment” and announced military drills in the seas around Taiwan — some of the world’s busiest waterways.

The exercises, which began around 12 pm (0400 GMT), involve “live-firing”, according to state media.

“Six major areas around the island have been selected for this actual combat exercise and during this period, relevant ships and aircraft should not enter the relevant waters and airspaces,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.

READ ALSO: 27 Chinese Warplanes Enter Taiwan’s Air Defence Zone: Taipei

AFP journalists in the border island of Pingtan saw several small projectiles flying into the sky followed by plumes of white smoke and loud booming sounds.

AFP was not in a position to identify the projectiles, which were fired from the proximity of nearby military installations, nor their precise direction.

The exercises are taking place in multiple zones around Taiwan — at some points within just 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the shore — and will conclude at midday on Sunday.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said it was closely watching the drills.

“The Ministry of National Defence stresses that it will uphold the principle of preparing for war without seeking war, and with an attitude of not escalating conflict and causing disputes,” it said in a statement.

Beijing’s nationalist state-run tabloid Global Times said, citing military analysts, that the exercises were “unprecedented” and that missiles would fly over Taiwan for the first time.

“This is the first time the PLA will launch live long-range artillery across” the Taiwan Strait, the newspaper said using the Chinese military’s formal name, the People’s Liberation Army.

The Group of Seven industrialised nations has condemned the drills, saying in a statement there was “no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait”.

‘Preparation For Actual Combat’ 

Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau issued warnings on Wednesday to ships to avoid the areas being used for the Chinese drills.

The Taiwanese cabinet said the drills would disrupt 18 international routes passing through its flight information region (FIR).

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific said it had ordered its aircraft to “avoid going through the designated airspace zones around the Taiwan region”.

The manoeuvres will take place along some of the busiest shipping routes on the planet, used to supply vital semiconductors and electronic equipment produced in East Asian factory hubs to global markets.

Beijing has defended the drills as “necessary and just”, pinning the blame for the escalation on the United States and its allies.

“In the current struggle surrounding Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, the United States are the provocateurs, China is the victim,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing Wednesday.

A Chinese military source also told AFP the exercises would be staged “in preparation for actual combat”.

“If the Taiwanese forces come into contact with the PLA on purpose and accidentally fire a gun, the PLA will take stern countermeasures, and all the consequences will be borne by the Taiwanese side,” the source said.

‘Some Limits’ 

Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of an invasion, but that threat has intensified under President Xi Jinping, China’s most assertive ruler in a generation.

The island is once again a flashpoint between the United States and a Chinese leadership keen to project strength ahead of a crucial ruling party meeting this autumn at which Xi is expected to be given an unprecedented third term.

On the mainland, at what is said to be China’s closest point to Taiwan, AFP saw a batch of five military helicopters flying at a relatively low altitude near a popular tourist spot.

“China’s announced military exercises represent a clear escalation from the existing baseline of Chinese military activities around Taiwan and from the last Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995-1996,” said Amanda Hsiao, senior analyst for China at the International Crisis Group.

“Beijing is signalling that it rejects Taiwan’s sovereignty.”

Nevertheless, analysts have told AFP that China is not aiming to escalate the situation beyond its control — at least for now.

Titus Chen, an associate professor of political science at the National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan, said: “The last thing Xi wants is an accidental war.”

AFP

China Vows ‘Punishment’ As Pelosi Visits Taiwan

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks as Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen listens, in the Presidential Office in Taipei. (Photo by Handout / Taiwan Presidential Office / AFP)

 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi vowed Wednesday to punish those who offend Beijing, state media reported, as the country seethes over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

“This is a complete farce. The United States is violating China’s sovereignty under the guise of so-called ‘democracy’… those who offend China will be punished,” Wang said on the sidelines of a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh.

READ ALSO: China Summons US Ambassador Over Pelosi’s Taiwan Trip

But Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen countered that the island of 23 million would not be cowed.

“Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down. We will… continue to hold the line of defence for democracy,” Tsai said at an event with Pelosi in Taipei.

She also thanked the 82-year-old US lawmaker for “taking concrete actions to show your staunch support for Taiwan at this critical moment”.

China tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries having official exchanges with Taipei.

Pelosi, second in line to the presidency, is the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

“Today, our delegation… came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan,” she said at the event with Tsai.

Earlier, Pelosi said her group had come “in friendship to Taiwan” and “in peace to the region”.

 ‘High alert

The administration of President Joe Biden said in the run-up to the visit that US policy towards Taiwan remained unchanged.

This means support for its government while diplomatically recognising Beijing over Taipei, and opposing a formal independence declaration by Taiwan or a forceful takeover by China.

While the White House is understood to be opposed to Pelosi’s Taiwan stop, its National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said she was entitled to go where she pleased.

After Pelosi touched down Tuesday night in a military aircraft following days of feverish speculation about her plans, Beijing summoned US Ambassador Nicholas Burns.

The Chinese military declared it was on “high alert” and would “launch a series of targeted military actions in response” to the visit.

The drills will include “long-range live ammunition shooting” in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China and straddles vital shipping lanes.

The zone of Chinese exercises will be within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of Taiwan’s shoreline at some points, according to coordinates released by the Chinese military.

“Some of the areas of China’s drills breach into… (Taiwan’s) territorial waters,” defence ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang said at a press conference Wednesday.

“This is an irrational move to challenge the international order.”

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which sets the government’s China policies, accused Beijing of “vicious intimidation” that would “seriously impact the peace and prosperity of entire East Asia”.

It added that democratic countries should “unite and take a solemn stand to punish and deter” Beijing.

Japan, a key US ally in the region, said Wednesday it had expressed concern to China over the exercises, while South Korea called for dialogue to maintain regional peace and stability.

Both countries are on Pelosi’s Asia itinerary, following stops in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.

‘We shouldn’t be too worried

Beijing has long used diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Taiwan.

On Wednesday China announced curbs on the import of fruit and fish from Taiwan — citing the detection of pesticide residue and the coronavirus. It also halted shipments of sand to the island.

“Those who offend China will be punished,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters Thursday while on a trip to Cambodia.

Outside the Taiwanese parliament, 31-year-old computer programmer Frank Chen shrugged off the Chinese warnings against Pelosi’s visit.

“I’m not too worried about China’s intimidation,” he told AFP.

“I think China will take more threatening actions and ban more Taiwanese products, but we shouldn’t be too worried.”

There was a small group of pro-China demonstrators outside parliament as well.

“The United States uses Taiwan as a pawn in its confrontation with China, to try to drag China down so (it) can dominate the world,” Lee Kai-dee, a 71-year-old retired researcher, told AFP.

“If the United States continues to act this way, Taiwan will end up like Ukraine.”

China has vowed to annex self-ruled, democratic Taiwan one day, by force if necessary.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February heightened fears in Taiwan that China may similarly follow through on its threats to annex the island.

AFP

US Senate To Vote On Abortion Rights Bill

The United States Congress. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP#

 

The US Senate will vote Wednesday on a national abortion rights bill — a process likely doomed to fail — after a leaked draft decision signalled the Supreme Court’s readiness to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade decision.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has called the draft ruling an “abomination,” said he has teed up the vote on codifying the right to abortion in America, which the conservative-majority court appears poised to ban.

The prospects of success are virtually zero, given the blocking power of Republicans in an evenly divided 100-seat Senate where key legislation almost always faces a 60-vote threshold.

READ ALSO: US Hopes To Return Diplomats To Kyiv By End Of Month

But the vote will nonetheless put lawmakers on record regarding one of the country’s most divisive issues, and Democrats hope the debate will galvanize voters to go to the polls in the midterm elections exactly six months from Sunday.

“We will vote on Wednesday, and every American will see how every senator stands. They can’t duck it anymore,” Schumer said at a press conference Sunday in New York.

“Now they have to show which side they’re on.”

Republican-controlled states have taken steps to restrict abortion rights in recent months, given that overturning Roe v Wade would give states the ability to make their own laws on abortion.

Top congressional Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, reiterated her outrage about the court’s upcoming likely decision, telling CBS News on Sunday that “the court has slapped women in the face in terms of disrespect for their judgments about the size and timing of their families.”

With Democrats lacking the necessary majority to push through codification, the only other option would appear to be changing Senate rules to lower the number of votes required to pass such a bill.

But Republicans — and a few senators in President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party — oppose such a move.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said “we will never give in” to Republican efforts to roll back abortion rights protections.

“We are half-citizens under this ruling,” she told CNN, referring to the draft opinion. “And if this is put into law, it changes the foundation of America.”

Several conservative states are already shifting.

The southern state of Mississippi will ban abortion except in cases of rape or incest, or danger to the life of the mother, Republican Governor Tate Reeves told NBC Sunday.

But looking forward, “we must prove that being pro-life is not just about anti-abortion,” Reeves said, by making sure expectant mothers and newborns have the resources they need.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the Roe decision has sown division for decades because it “created a constitutional right that doesn’t exist in the written constitution.”

Now, he told Fox News, “finally elected officials have a say about life and the conditions of an abortion. I think that’s the way it should be.”

According to a poll released Friday by the Pew Research Center, about 61 percent of Americans believe abortion should remain legal in all or most circumstances.

But, as with so many other social issues, the gap between Democrats and Republicans is wide, and growing wider. Eight in 10 Democrats support abortion rights in all or most cases, more than double the 38 percent of Republicans who do, Pew said.

AFP

Republican ‘Complicity’ With Trump ‘Endangers America’ – House Speaker

In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

The top Democrat in the US House of Representatives accused Republicans on Monday of endangering America by blocking moves to immediately remove President Donald Trump from office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed Republican lawmakers for blocking a resolution introduced by Democrats calling on Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution and remove Trump from the White House.

READ ALSO: Trump Twitter Ban Problematic, Says Merkel

“The House Republicans rejected this legislation to protect America, enabling the president’s unhinged, unstable and deranged acts of sedition to continue,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“Their complicity endangers America, erodes our democracy, and it must end.”

 

File photo: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) presides over Resolution 755 as the House of Representatives votes on the second article of impeachment of US President Donald Trump at in the House Chamber at the US Capitol Building on December 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

 

The move came after a violent mob, egged on in a speech and social media posts by Trump, stormed the US Capitol last week as lawmakers were certifying Joe Biden’s election victory over Trump.

“On Wednesday, the President incited a deadly insurrection against America that targeted the very heart of our Democracy,” Pelosi said.

“The president represents an imminent threat to our constitution, our country and the American people, and he must be removed from office immediately,” she added.

Pelosi said a vote would be held in the House on Tuesday on the demand by Democrats that Pence invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office.

“We are further calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours after passage,” she said.

“As our next step, we will move forward with bringing impeachment legislation to the floor,” the speaker of the Democratic-controlled House said.

“The president’s threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action.”

AFP

 

Pelosi Affirms Readiness To Start Second Impeachment Of Trump

U.S. Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walks in a hallway at the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES

 

 

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she would push ahead with efforts to remove President Donald Trump from office during the final days of his administration after his supporters’ violent attack on the Capitol.

Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said there would be a resolution in the House of Representatives on Monday calling for the cabinet to remove Trump as unfit for office under the constitution’s 25th amendment.

If Vice President Mike Pence does not agree, “we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation” to the floor of the House of Representatives, Pelosi said.

READ ALSO: Democrats Forge Ahead To Impeach Trump, Again

“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” she said.

“As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”

Trump was already impeached once by the Democratic-controlled House — in December 2019 for pressuring the leader of Ukraine to dig up political dirt on Joe Biden.

He was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate.

Though time is running short, Democrats likely have the votes in the House to impeach Trump again and could even draw some Republican support for the move.

But they are unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump in the 100-member Senate and remove him from office.

Trump’s successor Joe Biden is due to be inaugurated on January 20.

AFP

Stock Markets Rebound On Trump Health, Stimulus Hope

This White House handout photo released October 4, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump working in the Presidential Suite at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on October 3, 2020, after testing positive for COVID-19. (Photo by Joyce N. BOGHOSIAN / The White House / AFP)

 

Stock markets bounced back Monday on reports suggesting Donald Trump’s health is improving after the US president tested positive for the coronavirus, with traders also cheered by signs that American lawmakers were edging towards agreement on a new stimulus package.

Global equities sank Friday after the White House announced Trump’s diagnosis, which fanned fresh uncertainty a month before the November 3 presidential election, with some commentators questioning whether the vote would actually take place.

Oil prices also began staging a recovery after last week’s heavy losses, with West Texas Intermediate and Brent prices rising around five percent on optimism about Trump’s health, while the dollar traded mixed as the Dow Jones and the tech-rich the tech-rich Nasdaq added one percent shortly after the opening.

After spending the weekend in hospital — with conflicting reports about the severity of his condition — Trump’s medical team said he had “continued to improve” and could return home as early as Monday.

“Stock markets in Europe are showing respectable gains… on the back of the optimism surrounding the health of President Trump,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

“At the end of last week, it was announced that the US leader tested positive for Covid-19 and that hurt market confidence. In a video, the Donald said he was receiving ‘great reports from the doctors’, and that has encouraged traders to buy back into the market.

“Over the weekend, Mr Trump expressed his desire for Republicans and Democrats to compromise and make a deal with respect to the proposed coronavirus relief package.”

Analysts said the episode could help jolt congressional leaders to up their efforts for a second economic rescue package, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying: “This kind of changes the dynamic.”

Trump urged lawmakers to reach a deal, tweeting from hospital: “OUR GREAT USA WANTS AND NEEDS A STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE! Thank You!”

– Package potential –

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have held a series of talks aimed at matching up their spending plans, with the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion proposal around $600 billion more than what Republicans are willing to stump up.

If there is no pre-election stimulus agreement, ThinkMarkets analyst Fawad Razaqzada indicated that a Joe Biden win might mean “the Democrats could then pass their original $3.4 trillion stimulus in January … a much bigger package than would be possible in a potential bi-partisan agreement pre-election.

“So, although Trump is widely seen as business- and market-friendly, this may explain why investors do not appear to be too concerned about the rising probability of Biden winning the election, at least in so far as the short-term is concerned.”

The need for a fresh package was highlighted Friday by data showing the US economy created fewer jobs than expected in September as the recovery enjoyed through summer stutters.

Observers said markets are largely pricing in a Biden victory and a clean sweep for Democrats in House and Senate polls, despite expectations of higher taxes and regulations.

The more positive outlook for Trump’s health lifted riskier assets, with higher-yielding currencies up against the dollar, while key safe havens yen and gold retreated.

– Key figures around 1400 GMT –

New York – Dow Jones: UP 0.9 percent at 27,937.89

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 5,938.25 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.9 percent at 12,798.35

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.8 percent at 4,864.35

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.7 percent at 3,214.73

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.2 percent at 23,312.14 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.3 percent at 23,767.78 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1767 from $1.1716 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 105.57 yen from 105.29 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2974 from $1.2935

Euro/pound: UP at 90.70 pence from 90.58 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 5.1 percent at $38.93 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 4.5 percent at $41.03.