Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen struck a defiant tone Wednesday as she hosted US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with a furious China gearing up for major military exercises around the island in retaliation for the visit.
“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 Pelosi for “taking concrete actions to show your staunch support for Taiwan at this critical moment”.
Pelosi thanked President Tsai Ing-wen for her leadership and called for increased inter-parliamentary cooperation. “We commend Taiwan for being one of the freest societies in the world,” Pelosi told Taiwan’s parliament. She also said new US legislation aimed at strengthening the American chip industry to compete with China “offers greater opportunity for US-Taiwan economic cooperation”.
Pelosi landed in Taiwan Tuesday despite a series of increasingly-stark warnings and threats from Beijing, which views the island as its territory and has said it would consider Pelosi’s visit “a major provocation”. China responded swiftly, warning the US ambassador in Beijing of “extremely serious consequences”, announcing a flurry of military exercises, and the suspension of several agricultural imports from Taiwan, including citrus fruits, chilled white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel from Taiwan. The commerce ministry also suspended export of natural sand to Taiwan.
Taiwan announced the incursion of 21 Chinese military aircraft into its air defence zone, as Chinese warplanes buzzed the line dividing the Taiwan Strait before Pelosi’s arrival, and the Chinese military announced joint air and sea drills near Taiwan and test launches of conventional missiles in the sea east of Taiwan. Beijing considers Taiwan a “breakaway province” but the latter has maintained its self-rule since 1949 and enjoys diplomatic ties with at least 14 countries.
Pelosi’s visit set to dominate ASEAN meeting
Southeast Asian foreign ministers will seek ways to help calm rising tensions over Taiwan at regional talks, ASEAN spokesman Kung Phoak, Cambodia’s deputy foreign minister, said. He told reporters ministers would try to find ways the bloc could help “so that the situation in Taiwan will be stable, that won’t lead to a conflict and won’t escalate the political heat between all concerned”. The 10-member bloc is split between countries with close ties to China, such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, and others that are warier of Beijing and its growing international assertiveness. The ASEAN meeting had been due to focus on the crisis in Myanmar but attention will now focus instead on Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his American counterpart Anthony Blinken – both flying into the Cambodian capital for regional security talks with ASEAN on Thursday and Friday.
Taliban react to US assassination of Zawahiri
The Taliban have condemned the US drone strike in Kabul over the weekend that killed al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid strongly condemned the attack and called it “a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement”. The Doha Agreement, was a peace agreement signed by the United States and the Taliban in 2020 in Doha, Qatar, to bring an end to the 2001-2021 war in Afghanistan. The death of al-Zawahiri, one of the last remaining al-Qaeda leadership figures from the 9/11 era, raises questions about its future leadership.
French back accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO
France’s National Assembly voted to ratify the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO on Tuesday after the historic decision by the two countries to give up their neutrality amid the war in Ukraine. All 30 NATO member states need to formally ratify the measure before Sweden and Finland can enjoy the full protection of Article 5 of the NATO Charter in the event of an attack. The US Senate will hold votes this evening on approving both Finland and Sweden’s accession into NATO, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Tuesday.
US approves massive arms sale to S. Arabia, UAE
The Biden administration on Tuesday approved two massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help them defend against Iran. The more than $5 billion in missile defence and related sales follow President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East last month. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been hit in recent months with rocket attacks from the Iran-backed Houthi rebel movement in Yemen. The new sales include $3 billion for Patriot missiles for Saudi Arabia specifically designed to protect itself from rocket attacks by the Houthis, and $2.2 billion for high-altitude missile defense for the UAE.
Letta opens Italian electoral race after pact with centrists
Italy’s Democratic Party (PD) formed an alliance with a smaller centrist group Tuesday in a move seen as boosting the centre-left’s chances of preventing a right-wing triumph in next month’s election. The polls show a conservative alliance is on course for victory, with Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Frateli d’Italia set to be the largest single party. The PD, the largest party on the centre-left, has agreed to team up with Carlo Calenda’s Azione party in an effort to make up ground on the rival alliance. PD leader Enrico Letta said the alliance made the election an open race.
Grain ship anchors off Turkish coast
The first grain ship to leave Ukrainian ports since the start of the war is safely anchored off the Turkish coast. The ship ‘Razoni’, which left the Ukrainian port of Odessa with a load of 26,500 tons of grain, arrived off the northern coast of Istanbul – the first to travel along the safe corridor from the ports. The ‘Razoni’ will be inspected this morning by members of delegations from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations.
US sanctions Putin’s ‘girlfriend’, more oligarchs
The United States blacklisted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s purported girlfriend and the tycoon owner of the second-largest estate in London Tuesday in the latest round of sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. Also hit with US business bans were several other oligarchs believed to be close to Putin, four officials Russia has named to administer occupied territories in Ukraine, and around two dozen high technology institutes and companies, including key state-backed electronics entities. The US Treasury imposed sanctions on Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast widely described as Putin’s girlfriend, and Natalya Popova, the wife of Kirill Dmitriev, the manager of the Russian government’s massive sovereign wealth fund.
South American countries launch official 2030 World Cup bid
Four South American countries on Tuesday launched an unprecedented joint bid to host the centenary 2030 World Cup with the hope of bringing the global showpiece back to its first home. “We are in this iconic place where history began,” said Alejandro Dominguez, president of South American football’s governing body Conmebol, from the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo where the first World Cup final was held in 1930. Uruguay had won that, beating Argentina 4-2, but now the neighbours have joined together, alongside Paraguay and Chile, to bid for the right to host the 2030 global showpiece under the “Juntos 2030” (“Together 2030”) slogan. “This is not the project of a government but the dream of a whole continent,” added Dominguez. “There will be other World Cups but 100 years will be celebrated only once.”