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Taiwan decries China’s ‘illegitimate, irresponsible’ live-fire military drills

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Taiwan decries China's 'illegitimate, irresponsible' live-fire military drills
  • Chinese military exercises, involving live-fire, begin
  • Suspected drones fly over outlying Taiwanese islands
  • Taiwan says several government websites hacked
  • China says it’s an internal affair

TAIPEI, Aug 4 (Reuters) – China launched unprecedented live-fire military drills in six areas that ring Taiwan on Thursday, a day after a visit by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-ruled island that Beijing regards as its sovereign territory.

Soon after the scheduled start at 0400 GMT, China’s state broadcaster CCTV said the drills had begun and would end at 0400 GMT on Sunday. They would include live firing on the waters and in the airspace surrounding Taiwan, it said. read more

Taiwan officials have said the drills violate United Nations rules, invade Taiwan’s territorial space and are a direct challenge to free air and sea navigation.

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China is conducting drills on the busiest international waterways and aviation routes and that is “irresponsible, illegitimate behaviour,” Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party said.

Taiwan’s cabinet spokesman, expressing serious condemnation of the drills, said also that websites of the defence ministry, the foreign ministry and the presidential office were attacked by hackers.

On Wednesday night, just hours after Pelosi left for South Korea, unidentified aircraft, probably drones, flew above the area of Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen islands near the mainland coast, Taiwan’s defence ministry said. read more

Major General Chang Zone-sung of the army’s Kinmen Defense Command told Reuters that the drones came in a pair and flew into the Kinmen area twice on Wednesday night, at around 9 p.m. (1300 GMT). and 10 p.m.

“We immediately fired flares to issue warnings and to drive them away. After that, they turned around. They came into our restricted area and that’s why we dispersed them,” he said.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory and reserves the right to take it by force, said on Thursday its differences with the self-ruled island were an internal affair. read more

“Our punishment of pro-Taiwan independence diehards, external forces is reasonable, lawful,” China’s Beijing-based Taiwan Affairs Office said.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan a “manic, irresponsible and highly irrational” act bu the United States, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Wang, speaking at a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, said China had made the utmost diplomatic effort to avert crisis, but would never allow its core interests to be hurt.

The foreign ministers in a statement had earlier warned that volatility caused by tensions in the Taiwan Strait could lead to “miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers”. read more

‘COMRADE PELOSI’

Unusually, the drills in six areas around Taiwan were announced with a locator map circulated by China’s official Xinhua news agency earlier this week – a factor that for some analysts and scholars shows the need to play to both domestic and foreign audiences. read more

On Thursday, the top eight trending items on China’s Twitter-like Weibo service were related to Taiwan, with most expressing support for the drills or fury at Pelosi.

“Let’s reunite the motherland,” several users wrote.

In Beijing, security in the area around the U.S. Embassy remained unusually tight on Thursday as it has been throughout this week. There were no signs of significant protests or calls to boycott U.S. products.

“I think this (Pelosi’s visit) is a good thing,” said a man surnamed Zhao in the capital’s central business district. “It gives us an opportunity to surround Taiwan, then to use this opportunity to take Taiwan by force. I think we should thank Comrade Pelosi.”

Pelosi, the highest-level U.S. visitor to Taiwan in 25 years, praised its democracy and pledged American solidarity during her brief stopover, adding that Chinese anger could not stop world leaders from travelling there.

China summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing in protest against her visit and halted several agricultural imports from Taiwan.

“Our delegation came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear that we will not abandon Taiwan,” Pelosi told Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, who Beijing suspects of pushing for formal independence – a red line for China. read more

“Now, more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, and that’s the message we are bringing here today.”

The United States and the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations warned China against using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for military action against Taiwan.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said earlier in the week that Pelosi was within her rights to visit Taiwan, while stressing that the trip did not constitute a violation of Chinese sovereignty or America’s longstanding “one-China” policy.

The United States has no official diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by American law to provide it with the means to defend itself.

China views visits by U.S. officials to Taiwan as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying only the Taiwanese people can decide the island’s future.

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Reporting by Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Tony Munroe; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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World condemns Myanmar junta for ‘cruel’ execution of activists

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World condemns Myanmar junta for 'cruel' execution of activists
  • Executed include democracy figure, Suu Kyi ally
  • Families say not allowed to retrieve bodies
  • Executions aimed to send chilling message -rights groups
  • U.S. assesses how to punish Myanmar junta

July 25 (Reuters) – Myanmar’s ruling military announced on Monday it had executed four democracy activists accused of aiding “terror acts”, sparking widespread condemnation of the country’s first executions in decades.

Sentenced to death in secretive trials in January and April, the men were accused of helping a civilian resistance movement that has fought the military since last year’s coup and bloody crackdown on nationwide protests.

Among those executed were democracy campaigner Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Jimmy, and former lawmaker and hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw, an ally of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The two others executed were Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.

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State media said “the punishment has been conducted”, but did not say when, or by what method. Previous executions in Myanmar have been by hanging.

The shadow National Unity Government (NUG), which is leading efforts to undermine the junta’s attempts to rule Myanmar, said it was time for an international response.

“The global community must punish their cruelty,” said Kyaw Zaw, a spokesperson for the NUG president’s office.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the coup, with the military, which has ruled the former British colony for five of the past six decades, engaged in battles on multiple fronts with newly formed militia groups.

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called the executions a “cruel and regressive step” that would “only deepen its entanglement in the crisis it has itself created.”

The United States condemned the action and said there can no longer be “business as usual” with Myanmar’s junta. read more

Amnesty International’s death penalty adviser, Chiara Sangiorgio, said the executions were “an enormous setback” and that the junta is “not going to stop there.”

Human Rights Watch acting Asia director Elaine Pearson said it was “an act of utter cruelty” that “aims to chill the anti-coup protest movement.”

One video showed several masked protesters chanting and carrying a large banner down on a street in Yangon that read “We will never be frightened” before turning to run.

‘HIDING BODIES AWAY’

The executions were the first carried out among some 117 death sentences handed down by military-run courts since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which has been tracking arrests, killings and court verdicts in Myanmar.

Families of the executed men were denied the opportunity to retrieve their loved ones’ bodies, said Thazin Nyunt Aung, wife of Phyo Zeyar Thaw, comparing it to murderers covering up their crimes.

“This is killing and hiding bodies away,” she told Reuters. “They disrespected both Myanmar people and the international community.”

Nilar Thein, wife of Kyaw Min Yu, said she would hold no funeral without a body.

“We all have to be brave, determined and strong,” she posted on Facebook.

The men were held in Yangon’s Insein prison, where families visited last Friday, according to a person with knowledge of the events, who said prison officials allowed only one relative to speak to the detainees via video call.

“I asked then ‘why didn’t you tell me or my son that it was our last meeting?'” Khin Win May, the mother of Phyo Zeyar Thaw, told BBC Burmese.

The junta made no mention of the executions on its nightly television news bulletin on Monday.

Its spokesperson last month defended the death sentences as justified, and used in many countries. read more

‘HEINOUS EXECUTION’

The White House condemned the “heinous execution of pro-democracy activists and elected leaders.” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington was considering further measures in response to the junta, adding that “all options” were on the table, when asked specifically on potential sanctions on the country’s gas sector. read more

Price urged countries to ban sales of military equipment to Myanmar, not do anything that could lend the junta any international credibility.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez in a statement urged President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, among others.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has long had close ties to Aung San Suu Kyi, called on Myanmar’s neighbours to respond. “If they will not step up and impose meaningful costs on the junta the Biden administration should use authorities already given to it by Congress to sanction Burma’s energy sector,” he said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), last month sent a letter of appeal to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing not to carry out the executions, relaying deep concern among Myanmar’s neighbours.

France condemned the executions and called for dialogue among all parties, while Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the executions would further isolate Myanmar.

China’s foreign ministry urged all parties in Myanmar to properly resolve conflicts within its constitutional framework.

Others called for swift sanctions.

The U.N. Security Council should “pass a strong resolution of not only condemnation, but clear strategic action, sanctions, economic sanctions and arms embargo,” U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews told Reuters. read more

The AAPP says more than 2,100 people have been killed by security forces since the coup. The junta says that figure is exaggerated.

The true picture of violence has been hard to assess, as clashes have spread to more remote areas where ethnic minority insurgent groups are also fighting the military.

Close to a million people have been displaced by post-coup unrest, according to a United Nations estimate.

The executions have shattered hopes of any peace agreement, said the Arakan Army (AA), one of more than a dozen ethnic minority armies in Myanmar that have fought the military for years.

The executions will close off any chance of ending the unrest across Myanmar, said analyst Richard Horsey, of the International Crisis group.

“This is the regime demonstrating that it will do what it wants and listen to no one,” Horsey said.

“It sees this as a demonstration of strength, but it may be a serious miscalculation.”

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Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies, Michael Perry, Martin Petty and Susan Heavey; Editing by Toby Chopra, Tomasz Janowski and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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