CHINA GEARS UP FOR MILITARY DRILLS, SLAPS TRADE CURBS AFTER PELOSI VISIT TO TAIWAN
China is gearing up for big military exercises in the seas around Taiwan and rolled out curbs Wednesday on the import of fruit and fish from Taiwan while halting shipments of sand to the island in the wake of a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
China’s Customs Administration said Wednesday it would suspend some citrus fruits and fish imports from Taiwan over alleged “repeated” detection of excessive pesticide residue and positive coronavirus tests on packages.
The drills are due to begin at 12:00 local time (04:00 GMT) and in several areas are due to take place within 12 miles of the island.
Taiwan faced "deliberately heightened military threats", President Tsai said.
Ms Pelosi made a brief but controversial visit to Taiwan, which China regards as a breakaway province.
The drills - China's biggest ever around Taiwan - are Beijing's main response to the visit, although it has also blocked some trade with the island.
The exercises will take place in busy waterways and will include long-range live ammunition shooting, Beijing says.
Taiwan said it scrambled jets to warn off Chinese warplanes on Wednesday.
Its military had also fired flares to drive away unidentified aircraft, probably drones, which were flying over the Kinmen islands, located close to the mainland,
Taiwan's defence ministry also said it had suffered cyber attacks, following similar attacks on other government websites earlier in the week.
Taiwan has asked ships to find alternative routes to avoid the drills and is negotiating with neighbouring Japan and the Philippines to find alternative aviation routes.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the military drills were irresponsible and warned they could spiral out of control.
The US hoped Beijing would avoid "escalation that could lead to a mistake or miscalculation" in the air or on the seas, he said in an interview with National Public Radio on Wednesday.
SUNAK VOWS TO TACKLE EXTREMISM
With his campaign calling “Islamist extremism” the U.K’s “most significant terror threat”, Rishi Sunak, former Chancellor and candidate for the post of Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader, said he would widen the government’s definition of extremism and scrutinise publicly funded charities accused of promoting extremist ideology.
Part of Mr. Sunak’s plan, which was released by his campaign, was focused on the ‘Prevent’ programme, a government strategy to prevent individuals from supporting or becoming terrorists and adds “vilification of the United Kingdom” to the definition of extremism. Mr. Sunak’s agenda also goes into extremism in prisons, including seeking to separate extremists from the general prison population.
Sunak, who is seen closing the gap with opponent Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the race, vowed to weed out organisations that promote extremism and refocus the “failing” Prevent programme, a government tool intended to tackle Islamist extremism. The Ready4Rishi team released details of what has been dubbed as “ambitious plans” to tackle Islamist extremism.
ASEAN MINISTERS URGE RESTRAINT AFTER PELOSI'S TAIWAN VISIT
Phnom Penh: Southeast Asian nations Wednesday urged restraint over Taiwan after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island prompted an enraged China to vow "punishment".
Pelosi's dramatic trip to Taipei, defying stark threats by China, overshadowed a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers in Phnom Penh, which had been expected to focus on the bloody crisis engulfing Myanmar.
ASEAN spokesman Kung Phoak, Cambodia's deputy foreign minister, said ministers at the closed-door talks -- meeting face to face for the first time since the pandemic -- had expressed concern over "growing tension in the Taiwan Strait."
"We hope that all sides will try their best to deescalate the tension there, avoid actions that may contribute to the escalation of tension and engage in dialogue," Kung Phoak told reporters.
Malaysia and Thailand echoed the calls for calm, with Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah urging all sides to tread "very carefully".
Thai foreign ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said the kingdom called for "utmost restraint" and warned against "any actions that would aggravate tensions".
The 10-member ASEAN 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.
But no ASEAN country formally recognises Taiwan and none have shown an appetite for backing Taipei against the communist giant.
UN CHIEF ANTONIO GUTERRES CRITICISES OIL AND GAS COMPANIES FOR MAKING PROFITS 'WHILE DESTROYING OUR ONLY HOME'
The United Nations chief sharply criticized the "grotesque greed" of oil and gas companies on Wednesday for making record profits from the energy crisis on the back of the world's poorest people, "while destroying our only home."
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was "immoral" that the largest energy companies in the first quarter of the year made combined profits of close to $100 billion.
He urged all governments to tax these excessive profits "and use the funds to support the most vulnerable people through these difficult times."
Guterres urged people everywhere to send a message to the fossil fuel industry and their financiers that "this grotesque greed is punishing the poorest and most vulnerable people, while destroying our only common home, the planet."
The secretary-general spoke at the news conference launching a report by the Global Crisis Response Group he set up to tackle the triple interconnected crises of food, energy and finance which have especially hit countries trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and deal with the devastating impact of the war in Ukraine.
Guterres told reporters that "we are seeing excessive, scandalous profits of the oil and gas industry in a moment in which all of us are losing money" because of inflation around 7-8 per cent. And "nothing will be more popular than to tax the excessive profits … and to distribute that money to the most vulnerable families," he said.
The crisis group has already presented recommendations on food and finance and Guterres said he believes "we are making some progress" in those areas, especially on food.
U.S., INDONESIA HOLD JOINT MILITARY DRILLS AMID CHINA CONCERNS
The United States and Indonesian militaries began annual joint combat exercises Wednesday on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, joined for the first time by participants from other partner nations, signalling stronger ties amid growing maritime activity by China in the Indo-Pacific region.
More than 5,000 soldiers from the U.S., Indonesia, Australia, Japan and Singapore were participating in this year’s exercises, making them the largest since the drills were established in 2009. The exercises are designed to strengthen interoperability, capability, trust and cooperation in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta said in a statement.
“It’s a symbol of the U.S.-Indonesia bond and the growing relationship between land forces in this consequential region,” Gen. Charles Flynn, Commanding General of U.S. Army Pacific, said in the statement. “Because land forces are the glue that binds the region’s security architecture together.”
Gen. Flynn and Indonesia’s Military Chief Gen. Andika Perkasa opened the joint drills with a ceremony on Wednesday morning in Baturaja, a coastal town in South Sumatra province. The exercises will last until August 14, encompassing Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine drills.
The planned two-week drills opened after China’s Defence Ministry said on Tuesday night it would conduct a series of targeted military operations to “safeguard national sovereignty” in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to self-governed Taiwan.
RUSSIA COMES OUT IN SUPPORT OF JUNTA’S BID TO ‘STABILISE’ MYANMAR
Russia backs the Myanmar junta’s efforts to “stabilise” the crisis-wracked country and hold elections next year, its Foreign Minister said in talks with top generals on Wednesday, according to Russian state media.
The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since the putsch last year, with the junta accused by rights groups of committing war crimes as it struggles to crush resistance to its rule.
Isolated internationally and with Western governments imposing sanctions, the military government has sought to deepen ties with major ally and arms supplier Russia — whose invasion of Ukraine it has said was “justified”.
Russia — along with ally China — has been accused by rights groups and a UN expert of arming the military with weapons used to attack civilians.
IMF READY TO HELP B’DESH FACE CRISIS
The IMF said on Wednesday it is prepared to help Bangladesh with an aid programme to face the current economic crisis, as well as financing for longer-term challenges. Authorities in the South Asian nation last week requested funding from the IMF to allow it to ride out a financial shock triggered by volatile global energy prices sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “The IMF stands ready to support Bangladesh with this request,” a fund spokesperson said in a statement, noting however that “the amount of support has not yet been discussed.” A local paper said the government was seeking $4.5 billion.
AFP urnment. He said that the Sri Lankan economy was hit by opposition to foreign investm ent projects. “When we tried to develop the oil tank complex in Trincomalee together with India, it was stated that it would be a sell out to India, and the project was halted. If at that time we were allowed to develop the oil tank complex, today people would not have to spend many days in queues for fuel,” he said.
HEATWAVE LEAVES PARIS SWELTERING
Paris: Paris' regional authorities warned residents to be vigilant with temperatures soaring to 36° C. In a tweet, the Ile-de-France prefecture also asked residents to moderate their water consumption amid a “major dry spell”.