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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

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China warns of ‘forceful measures’ if U.S. House Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan

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China warns of 'forceful measures' if U.S. House Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 14, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

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BEIJING, July 19 (Reuters) – China’s government warned on Tuesday it would take “forceful measures” if U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, after the Financial Timessaid she would go to the Chinese-claimed island next month.

Pelosi and her delegation will also visit Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore, and spend time in Hawaii at the headquarters of U.S. Indo-Pacific command, the London paper added, citing people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said it has “not received relevant information” about any visit.

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Asked about the report, Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, said, “We do not confirm or deny international travel in advance due to longstanding security protocols.”

The Democratic leader’s visit to Taiwan had been postponed from April, after she tested positive for COVID-19. At the time, China said such a visit would severely affect Chinese-U.S. relations. read more

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said any visit by Pelosi would “seriously undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“If the U.S. side obstinately clings to this course, China will definitely take resolute and forceful measures to firmly defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

“The United States must be fully responsible for all the consequences caused by this.”

Taiwan faces mounting pressure from China, which considers the democratically governed island its own territory. The issue is a constant irritant in ties between Beijing and Washington.

Taiwan, however, has been heartened by continued support offered by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, which has repeatedly spoken of its “rock-solid” commitment to the island.

Pelosi, a long-time critic of China, held an online meeting with Taiwanese Vice President William Lai in January as he wrapped up a visit to the United States and Honduras. read more

The White House had expressed concern about the Pelosi trip, the Financial Times said, citing three people familiar with the situation.

There were divisions in the Democratic U.S. administration over whether Pelosi should visit Taiwan, the FT quoted two sources as saying.

Some officials believed it had been easier to justify a visit in April, as that was just after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it added.

China sent fighters across the Taiwan Strait’s median line earlier this month in what the latter described as a provocation. The incident came during a visit to Taipei by Senator Rick Scott, a Republican member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. read more

The report of Pelosi’s potential August visit came after China asked the United States on Monday to immediately cancel a potential sale of military technical assistance to Taiwan worth an estimated $108 million. read more

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Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Additional reporting by Anirudh Saligrama and Shivam Patel in Bengaluru, Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Kim Coghill, Clarence Fernandez, Michael Perry and Mark Heinrich

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‘Lessons learned’, but no details of royal review of Meghan bullying claims

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LONDON, June 30 (Reuters) – Buckingham Palace says lessons have been learned following a review into bullying allegations made by royal staff against Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, although it declined to give any details about the report’s conclusions.

The HR review was announced by the palace last March after the Times newspaper reported allegations had been made against Meghan, the American wife of Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry, including that she had reduced some of her assistants to tears and treated others so badly that they had quit.

The couple issued a statement in response denying she had bullied anyone, and in an interview with Oprah Winfrey shortly afterwards, she accused the palace of “perpetuating falsehoods”.

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Michael Stevens, the queen’s treasurer who is known as Keeper of the Privy Purse, said the privately-funded review, which was carried out by an independent law firm, had been set up to examine the handling of the allegations and to improve practices across all the royal households.

“The review has been completed and recommendations on our policies and procedures have been taken forward,” Stevens told reporters. “But we will not be commenting further.”

The Times report said a senior aide to Harry and Meghan had raised a complaint in October 2018 alleging that the duchess had bullied some of her assistants, and that the prince had urged the aide to drop the issue which then never progressed.

The palace ordered a review, saying it was “very concerned”, and all those who participated, including current and former staff members, have been informed of its outcome. Royal sources declined to say whether the duchess herself had been involved.

“I think the objectives have been satisfied because lessons have been learned,” a senior royal source said.

OVERSPEND

Stevens was speaking as he gave details of the annual report into the queen’s taxpayer-funded spending and income, known as the Sovereign Grant, which was published on Thursday.

This showed that official expenditure for 2021-22 had been some 102 million pounds ($124 million), above the 86 million allocated for the royals’ official travel, property maintenance and the operating costs of the 96-year-old queen’s household.

Since 2017, the queen has received extra public money to pay for a 369 million pound 10-year refit of Buckingham Palace to replace ageing and dangerous electrical wiring and boilers, and Stevens said the royal household would draw upon reserves put aside in previous years to cover the additional outlay.

Another hit on the royal finances – which the palace says costs each Briton 1.29 pounds a year – was the reduction in additional money made mainly from ticket sales to visit royal palaces, down 50% at 10 million pounds compared with before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, travel costs amounted to just under 2.5 million pounds, with the biggest expense being Prince William and his wife Kate’s tour of the Caribbean which cost 226,383 pounds.

“We are realistic that there will always be a tension between the travel involved with fulfilling the head of state and head of nation role, and meeting our environmental aspirations,” Stevens said.
($1 = 0.8231 pounds)

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Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alex Richardson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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