TAIWAN DECRIES CHINA’S MILITARY DRILLS
Taiwan officials have said China’s military drills around the island violate United Nations rules, invade Taiwan’s territorial space and are a direct challenge to free air and sea navigation.
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, also said that websites of the Defence Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the presidential office were attacked by hackers.
On Wednesday night, just hours after U.S. House Speaker Nancy 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.
Major General Chang Zone-sung of the Army’s Kinmen Defense Command said the drones came in a pair and flew into the Kinmen area twice on Wednesday night, at around 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. “We immediately fired flares to warn 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.
BRITTNEY GRINER: US URGES RUSSIA TO ACCEPT DEAL TO FREE JAILED BASKETBALL STAR
The US has urged Moscow to accept a deal to free basketball player Brittney Griner, who has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.
The double Olympic winner was convicted of possessing and smuggling drugs after admitting to possessing cannabis oil.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the US offer was "a serious proposal", but gave no details.
US media reports suggest Washington is offering a prisoner swap involving a Russian arms trafficker.
Viktor Bout - known as the "merchant of death" - is serving a 25 year-prison sentence in the US.
He could be transferred by Washington to the Russian authorities in exchange for Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, the reports say.
Whelan, who has US, British, Canadian and Irish passports, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in jail in Russia after being convicted of spying.
Mr Kirby told reporters that the duo were being wrongfully detained and needed to be let go.
But according to Reuters news agency, one stumbling block is that Russia wants to add convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov, who is in prison in Germany, to the proposed swap.
When questioned about this possibility, Mr Kirby dismissed it, saying: "I don't think we go so far as to even call it a counter-offer."
Griner, 31, told the court she had made an "honest mistake" and had not intended to break the law.
UKRAINE UNDER ATTACK IN EAST AS NATO SAYS RUSSIA MUST NOT WIN
Ukraine said on Thursday it had been forced to cede some territory in the east of the country in the face of a Russian offensive. Ukraine said the Russian offensive looked like an attempt to force it to divert troops from the south where Kyiv’s forces are trying to retake territory and destroy Russian supply lines. Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday the war was the most dangerous moment for Europe since WWII and that Russia must not be allowed to win it.
FROM CONVENIENCE STORES TO GOVT SITES, CYBERATTACKS PLAGUE TAIWAN
Taipei/Beijing : During Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei on Wednesday, in some branches of 7-11 convenience stores in Taiwan, the television screens behind cashiers suddenly switched to display the words: “Warmonger Pelosi, get out of Taiwan!” The largest 24-hour convenience store chain on the island was the victim of what Taiwanese authorities are calling an unprecedented amount of cyberattacks on government websites belonging to the presidential office, foreign and defence ministries as well as infrastructure such as screens at railway stations, in protest against Pelosi’s visit. Taipei has not directly blamed the attacks on the Chinese government, but has said that the cyberattacks originated from addresses in China and Russia. It also said the firms whose displays were changed had used Chinese software that could have contained backdoors or Trojan horse malware. Taiwan’s digital minister Audrey Tang said the volume of cyberattacks on government units on Tuesdaysurpassed 15,000 gigabits, 23 times higher than the previous daily record. Hacker group APT 27, which is accused of being a Chinese state-sponsored group, claimed responsibility for the cyberattacks on Wednesday, saying on YouTube that they were done to protest how Pelosi had defied China’s warnings with her visit.
SUNAK A DISTANT 2ND TO TRUSS IN TORY WEBSITE POLL
London : A new survey of members of the governing Conservative Party shows foreign secretary Liz Truss is firmly ahead of rival Rishi Sunak in the race to replace Boris Johnson as the British PM. Thesurvey of Tory members who will be electing a new leader to take charge at 10 Downing Street from September 5 released on Wednesday night by the ConservativeHome website found that 58%, of those polled back Truss. Sunak was found to have the support of 26%, while 12% were undecided. The latest findings come as Sunak faced a fresh blow with another prominent Tory MP and former PM candidate, Sajid Javid, endorsing Truss inthe race for her “bold agenda”.
CPEC IN TROUBLE WITH CHINA, PAK’S DISENGAGEMENT AMID ECONOMIC CRISIS
Almost a decade after Beijing initiated the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the implementation of its important projects is in jeopardy as Pakistan is heading into an economic crisis while Chinese investments are drying up.
A majority of the CPEC projects, which are already delayed, appear to remain only on paper now. Protests, corruption, and delays are further contributing to the CPEC’s woes. This makes the CPEC a failure in achieving its goals—bringing prosperity to Pakistan and allowing China direct access to the Middle East, the HK Post reported.
Beijing has cut the funding to the CPEC by more than half in 2022.
Similarly, the existing projects, mainly power plants, are likely to face disruptions as Islamabad struggles to secure the necessary funds to operate and maintain them.
China’s economic growth has slowed down to just 0.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2022, leading to the possibility of stagflation.
With Pakistan on the verge of an economic crisis, China is staring at CPEC loans turning unsustainable. China is not in the mood to release the funds it had pledged to the CPEC. In the first half of 2022, the Chinese engagement in the CPEC has dropped by 56 per cent.
On other hand, Pakistan too does not have funds to support the CPEC. There are talks about Pakistan facing a fate like Sri Lanka as it is witnessing soaring inflation, falling Pakistani rupee (PKR), and shrinking foreign reserves.
Pakistan does not have money to buy even coal for the CPEC-led power plants. Violent attacks on the CPEC projects and Chinese workers, and public protests have already become huge obstacles to the Chinese dream of an unhindered road route to the Gulf countries.
MONKEYPOX PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY: U.S.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration plans to declare the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency as soon as Thursday, the Washington Post reported, citing unidentified sources.
The declaration would come from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, who is expected to discuss the plan at an afternoon briefing, the Post reported.
President Biden on Aug. 2 appointed two top federal officials to coordinate his administration’s response to monkeypox, following declarations of emergencies by California, Illinois and New York.
Cases have crossed 6,600 in the United States, as of Wednesday’s data.
INDEFINITE CEASEFIRE WILL CONTINUE: TTP
Leaders of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have assured a Pakistani delegation that the indefinite ceasefire will remain in force till the two sides reach an agreement to end the nearly two decades of militancy in the tribal region, bordering Afghanistan.
The Pakistan government and the TTP agreed to extend the ceasefire, which was to come to an end on the night of May 30, indefinitely on May 31. The TTP assured the Ulema-e-Karam delegation from Pakistan led by noted cleric Mufti Taqi Usmani that the ceasefire will go on amid ongoing peace talks between the two sides, sources said.
SRI LANKA FIRMLY COMMITTED TO ONE CHINA POLICY: RANIL
Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday affirmed the island nation’s commitment to the ‘One China Policy’ and asked countries to “refrain from provocations”, in a message apparently directed to the U.S., days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan.
In a series of tweets, Mr. Wickremesinghe said: “During a meeting with H.E. Qi Zhenghong, Ambassador of China, I reiterated Sri Lanka’s firm commitment to the one-China policy, as well as to the UN Charter principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations. Countries must refrain from provocations which further escalate the current global tensions. Mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of countries are important foundations for peaceful cooperation and non-confrontation.”
The Chinese Ambassador “discussed the manner in which the bilateral relations could be further strengthened,” the President’s office later said in a statement, of their meeting held Wednesday afternoon, hours after Mr. Wickremesinghe delivered his inaugural address following his election as President.
NEPAL ANNOUNCES POLLS ON NOV 20
Kathmandu : Nepal’s government said on Thursday it will hold a parliamentary election on November 20 amid concerns over high inflation and depleted foreign exchange reserves that have led to rising food and energy prices. Education minister Debendra Paudel confirmed that a cabinet meeting had approved the date for the election to the 275-member House of Representatives.
An alliance of communists including former Maoist rebels and the centrist Nepali Congress party of PM Sher Bahadur Deuba has held power since July last year. Former prime minister K P Sharma Oli’s Communist UML party, considered closer to Beijing, is the main opposition. Nepal has seen 10 governments change since 239-year-old monarchy was abolished in 2008.