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Salman Rushdie's Family 'Relieved' He Is Off Ventilator: Son

LONDON, Aug 14: The family of Salman Rushdie are "extremely relieved" he has been taken off a ventilator following his stabbing, and the British author has retained his "defiant sense of humour", his son said Sunday.

"We are extremely relieved that yesterday he was taken off the ventilator and additional oxygen and was able to say a few words," his son Zafar tweeted.

Rushdie's agent Andrew Wylie said earlier Sunday that Rushdie was on the "road to recovery", two days after he was stabbed multiple times in a shocking assault at a literary event in New York state.

Zafar said that despite the promising news, his father's injuries were "life-changing" and "severe", and that he remained in a critical condition.

But "his usual feisty & defiant sense of humour remains intact," he added.

Zafar offered thanks to audience members who "bravely leapt to his defence" and for the "outpouring of love and support from around the world".

The agent said earlier that Rushdie might lose an eye; he also suffered injuries to the abdomen.

The author spent years under police protection after Iranian leaders called for his killing over his portrayal of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed in his novel "The Satanic Verses".

He was about to address the event in western New York state when a man rushed onto the stage and stabbed him repeatedly in the neck and abdomen.

The suspected assailant, Hadi Matar, 24, was wrestled to the ground by staff and other audience members before being taken into police custody.

He was arraigned in court on Saturday and pleaded not guilty to attempted murder charges.

41 Dead In Egyptian Church Fire

CAIRO, Aug 14: A fire that broke out Sunday in a Coptic Christian church in Egypt's capital Cairo killed 41 people, church officials said.

The blaze started for unknown reasons at the Abu Sifine church in the capital's northwestern, working-class district of Imbaba, officials said.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared on his Facebook page that "I have mobilised all state services to ensure that all measures are taken".

Fire services later said the blaze had been brought under control.

Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, making up at least 10 million of Egypt's 103 million people.

The minority has suffered attacks and complained of discrimination in the majority Muslim north African country, the Arab world's most populous.

Copts have suffered reprisals from Islamists, particularly after Sisi overthrew former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, with churches, schools and homes burnt down.

Sisi, the first Egyptian president to attend the Coptic Christmas mass every year, recently appointed a Coptic judge to head the Constitutional Court for the first time in history.

Egypt has suffered several deadly fires in recent years.

In March 2021, at least 20 people died in a blaze in a textile factory in the eastern suburbs of Cairo.

In 2020, two hospital fires claimed the lives of 14 Covid-19 patients.

Salman Rushdie On Ventilator After Stabbing

NEW YORK, Aug 13: Author Salman Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after an Iranian fatwa ordered his killing, was on a ventilator and could lose an eye following a stabbing attack at a literary event in New York state on Friday.

The British author of "The Satanic Verses", which sparked fury among some Muslims who believed it was blasphemous, had to be airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery following the attack.

His agent said in a statement obtained by The New York Times that "the news is not good." "Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged," said agent Andrew Wylie, who added that Rushdie could not speak.

Carl LeVan, an American University politics professor attending the literary event, said that the assailant had rushed onto the stage where Rushdie was seated and "stabbed him repeatedly and viciously."

New York state police identified the suspected attacker as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old from Fairfield, New Jersey, adding that he stabbed Rushdie in the neck as well as the abdomen.

An interviewer onstage, 73-year-old Ralph Henry Reese, suffered a facial injury but has been released from hospital, police said. The attack took place at the Chautauqua Institution, which hosts arts programmes in a tranquil lakeside community 110 km south of Buffalo city.

Rushdie, 75, was propelled into the spotlight with his second novel "Midnight's Children" in 1981, which won international praise and Britain's prestigious Booker Prize for its portrayal of post-independence India.

But his 1988 book "The Satanic Verses" transformed his life when Iran's first supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious decree, ordering his killing. The novel was considered by some Muslims as disrespectful of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad.

Rushdie, who was born in India to non-practicing Muslims and identifies as an atheist, was forced to go underground as a bounty was put on his head. He was granted police protection by the government in Britain, where he was at school and where he made his home, following the murder or attempted murder of his translators and publishers.

Global leaders voiced anger over the attack, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying the author "embodied freedom" and that "his battle is ours, a universal one." British leader Boris Johnson said he was "appalled," sending thoughts to Rushdie's loved ones and praising the author for "exercising a right we should never cease to defend."

Chinese 'Spy' Ship Cleared To Dock At Lanka Port Amid Concerns In India

COLOMBO, Aug 13: Sri Lanka's government has granted permission for a controversial Chinese research vessel to visit the island despite India's concerns that it could spy on New Delhi's military installations, officials said on Saturday.

The Yuan Wang 5 is described as a research and survey vessel by international shipping and analytics sites, but is said to be a dual-use spy ship.

New Delhi is suspicious of Beijing's increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and influence in Sri Lanka, seeing both as being firmly within its sphere of influence.

The Yuan Wang 5 was originally due to call at Sri Lanka's Chinese-run Hambantota port on August 11, only for Colombo to ask Beijing to indefinitely defer the visit.

Sri Lanka government sources said that although India had raised concerns with President Ranil Wickremesinghe himself, the country failed to give a "satisfactory response" as to why the ship should not be allowed to dock.

"On 12 August 2022 the Embassy of the People's Republic of China informed the Ministry via Diplomatic Note that the Vessel YUAN WANG 5 was scheduled to arrive in the port of Hambantota on 16 August, 2022 and applied for clearance for replenishment purposes," Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Having considered all material in place, on 13 August, 2022 the clearance to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China was conveyed for the deferred arrival of the vessel from 16-22 August, 2022," it added.

Port officials said the Chinese vessel was about 1,000 kilometres southeast of Sri Lanka on Friday night and was heading slowly towards the Hambantota deep sea port.

Sri Lanka leased the port to China for 99 years for $1.12 billion, less than the $1.4 billion Sri Lanka paid a Chinese company to build it.

According to sources in the Indian government, the Yuan Wang 5 could be employed for space and satellite tracking and has specific uses in intercontinental ballistic missile launches.

However, the government on Friday rejected China's "insinuations" that New Delhi pressured Colombo against the ship's visit even as it asserted that it will take decisions based on its security concerns.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Sri Lanka, as a sovereign country, makes its own independent decisions and noted that India would make its judgment on its security concerns based on the prevailing situation in the region, especially in the border areas.

"We reject the insinuations in the statement about India. Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and makes its own independent decisions," Bagchi said when asked about the issue at a media briefing.

India's Relationship With China Not Normal: S Jaishankar

BENGALURU, Aug 12: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said that India-China relations cannot be normal unless border situation is and added that if China disturbs the peace and tranquillity in border areas, it will impact the relations further.

"We have maintained our position that if China disturbs the peace and tranquillity in border areas, it will impact our relations. Our relationship is not normal, it cannot be normal as the border situation is not normal," Jaishankar said in Bengaluru on the India-China issue.

Jaishankar also said that the big problem is the border situation and Indian military has been holding on to the ground.

"We have made substantial progress in pulling back from places where we were very close to the LOC," he added.

Moreover, S Jaishankar while speaking on the Belt and Road Initiative noted, "There was a violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty, the fact that third country is doing things on sovereign Indian territory occupied by another country."

Earlier, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the government has seen reports about third countries participating in projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Projects, and any such activity by any party directly infringed on India's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

MEA spokesperson Arindam Baghchi said India firmly and consistently opposes projects in the "so-called CPEC, which are in Indian territory that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan".

"Such activities are inherently illegal, illegitimate and unacceptable, and will be treated accordingly by India," the official statement added.

Responding to media queries regarding the participation of third countries in CPEC Projects, the MEA spokesperson Bagchi said: "We have seen reports on encouraging a proposed participation of third countries in so-called CPEC projects."

"Any such actions by any party directly infringe on India's sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

The response of the MEA comes amid reports that Pakistan and China have decided to invite any interested third country to join the multibillion-dollar infrastructure CPEC project which they termed as mutually beneficial cooperation.

The third meeting of the CPEC Joint Working Group (JWG) on International Cooperation and Coordination (JWG-ICC) was held on Friday, July 22 in virtual mode.

In 2015, China announced the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project in Pakistan worth USD 46 billion, of which Balochistan is an integral part.

CPEC is a part of China's most ambitious project 'Belt and Road Initiative', aimed at renewing the country's historic trade routes in the coastal countries of south-east Asia.

It would link Pakistan's southern Gwadar port in Balochistan on the Arabian Sea to China's western Xinjiang region. It also includes plans to create road, rail and oil pipeline links to improve connectivity between China and the Middle East. The Baloch have opposed China's increasing involvement in the province.

The CPEC has not benefited the people of Balochistan while people of other provinces enjoy the fruits of the mega project. This has led to widespread protests as the Chinese are viewed as encroachers who are squeezing out all the wealth from the region.

Media reports said that Beijing has been using the CPEC to gain control of the Gwadar port and the region of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Gwadar port, located on the Arabian Sea, will allow China to have a say in global energy economics as the country can use a naval base to hold control over the maritime traffic passing between West Asia.

It is crucial for China to gain control over the Gilgit-Baltistan region (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir PoK), as the region borders the Xinjiang province of China.

Since 2010, there have been reports of the growing presence of China in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. It was believed that several Chinese soldiers were present in the region in 2010 to secure road links, and build infrastructure projects, including nearly two dozen tunnels.

China's presence grew in the region three years later following the announcement of CPEC.

The Chinese mega projects are showing an adverse impact on Gilgit-Baltistan's environment leading to uncontrollable pollution and irreversible depletion of aquatic ecosystems.

Under the banner of CPEC, Pakistan and China are initiating work on mega-dams, oil and gas pipelines, and uranium and heavy metal extraction in Gilgit-Baltistan.

CPEC has been a major cause of militancy and even terror attacks and a sore point with local populations from Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the north to Sindh and Balochistan in the south, who feel neglected and marginalised, while their resources get transferred to Punjab and big cities and now to China.

Even Islamabad is facing rising unrest and protests from locals in Balochistan, Gwadar and other areas as they accuse the government of depriving them of basic amenities and rights.

India opposes unilateral actions to change status quo in Taiwan Strait; Avoids mention of one-china policy

NEW DELHI, Aug 12: India on Friday avoided any mention of the “one-China” policy as it opposed unilateral actions to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait in its first official response to tensions triggered by China’s military drills following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

The Indian side, locked in a military standoff with China in the Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) for more than two years, so far maintained a studied silence on last week’s Pelosi visit to the self-governed island that China sees as a breakaway province, and the air and sea drills conducted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, without naming either China or Taiwan, outlined India’s position on the issue in response to several questions at a weekly media briefing.

“Like many other countries, India too is concerned at recent developments. We urge the exercise of restraint, avoidance of unilateral actions to change status quo, de-escalation of tensions and efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region,” Bagchi said.

A reporter from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency pointedly mentioned Pelosi’s visit to “China’s Taiwan region” and the support received by Beijing from some 170 countries on the “one-China” principle, and asked about India’s position on this matter but the spokesperson was not drawn out on the issue.

“India’s relevant policies are well-known and consistent. They do not require reiteration,” Bagchi replied.

In response to another question, Bagchi said India has no plans as of now to evacuate the 10,000-odd Indians living in Taiwan. He noted that all Indian missions around the world have contingency plans in place for expatriate Indians but said that no advisory has been issued so far in the case of Taiwan.

Almost all other countries that criticised China’s military drills in the Taiwan Strait have also acknowledged the “one-China” policy regarding their relations with Beijing. India is among the very few countries that have not made a reference to the policy in their response to the tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

People familiar with the matter said the “one-China” principle hasn’t found mention even in India-China joint statements since at least 2005. The last time the Chinese side made a push for the principle to be included in a joint statement was during the Chinese president’s visit to India in 2014.

At the time, the Indian side was non-committal due to widespread anger over China’s policy of issuing “stapled visas” to residents of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which are claimed by China.

A report on India-China relations issued by the parliamentary committee on external affairs in 2018 noted that India is “overtly cautious about China’s sensitivities while dealing with Taiwan and Tibet”, whereas “China does not exhibit the same deference while dealing with India’s sovereignty concerns, be it in the case of Arunachal Pradesh or that of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK)”.

Since the beginning of the military standoff on the LAC in May 2020, the Indian leadership has accused Chinese troops of making several attempts to alter the status quo in border areas and of violating agreements and protocols for border management. India’s opposition to such unilateral changes to the status quo has been supported by key partners such as Australia and several European nations.

Though there are no diplomatic relations between India and Taiwan, both sides have maintained representative offices in each other’s capitals since the mid-1990s to look after economic, trade, investment, cultural and science and technology issues.

Salman Rushdie Stabbed In Neck At New York Event, Taken To Hospital

NEW YORK, Aug 12: Author Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the neck at an event in New York, US, on Friday. Details were scarce about his condition and the attacker, who has been detained. The 75-year-old author's writings have in the past led to threats.

The New York State Police confirmed the stabbing and said he was taken to an area hospital by helicopter. Governor Kathy Hochul said he's alive and "receiving all the care he needs". The attacker is in custody, police said.

Social media posts showed people rushing to his aid on stage at Chautauqua Institution, about 100 km from the city. the moderator of the talk suffered minor head injuries in the attack. Rushdie fell to the floor immediately after the attack, and the attacker was restrained.

Moderator Henry Reese and Rushdie were to discuss "the US as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression". The attack happened around 11 am local time (8.30 pm IST) as Rushdie was being introduced. There were around 2,500 people in the audience, who were evacuated later.

"This guy ran on to platform and started pounding on Rushdie," said Rabbi Charles Savenor, who was in the audience. "At first you're like, ‘What's going on?' And then it became abundantly clear in a few seconds that he was being beaten." The attack lasted about 20 seconds, he said.

Rushdie, 75, faced threats in the late 1980s over his book, The Satanic Verses, which is banned in Iran since 1988 as it is alleged to be blasphemous towards Islam. There was also a reward out on his head by the Iranian top leader, though by 1998 the Iranian government said it wasn't seeking to enforce that 'fatwa' or edict. It wasn't clear if the attack is linked to that.

A British citizen of Indian origin, Rushdie has lived in the US for the past 20 years. After the controversy over his fourth book, The Satanic Verses (1988), he remained out of the public eye, mostly living in the UK. Despite the threats, he produced several novels throughout the 1990s and continued to criticise religious fundamentalism.

His first novel came out in 1975, but one of his seminal works is about modern India, Midnight's Children (1981), for which he won the Booker Prize. In 2007, he was knighted — given the ceremonial title of 'Sir' — by Queen Elizabeth II for services to literature. He has produced over a dozen works, including non-fiction.

In 2012, after an Iranian religious outfit renewed the bounty on him, he dismissed that threat, saying there was "no evidence" of people being interested in the reward, said a report. That year, he published a memoir, Joseph Anton, about the fatwa. The title came from the pseudonym he had used while in hiding.

The Chautauqua Institution, where the attack took place, is located in a rural part of New York. It is known for its summertime lecture series. Rushdie has spoken there before.

Kim Jong Un 'Seriously Ill' In North Korea Covid Surge, Says His Sister

PYONGYANG, Aug 11: Kim Jong Un's sister revealed that the North Korean leader suffered from a "high fever" during a recent Covid outbreak, as she vowed to "eradicate" South Korean authorities if they continued to tolerate propaganda leaflets the regime blames for spreading the virus.

Repeating dubious claims that the pamphlets caused the recent Covid outbreak in the north, Kim Yo Jong blamed "South Korean puppets" for sending "dirty objects" across the border in leaflets carried by balloons, the official Korean Central News Agency reported Thursday.

The revelation of her brother's illness marked an unusual admission for a regime that rarely comments on the leader's health -- and then only to show that he shares the struggles of the people.

Kim Yo Jong said in a speech that the North Korean leader was "seriously ill" during his bout with fever, according to KCNA. Still, she added that her brother "could not lie down for even a moment because of his concerns for the people." She didn't say whether the elder Kim was among what North Korea calls "fever cases" or specify the date of his illness.

Overweight and a smoker, Kim Jong Un's health has prompted speculation for years. His public appearances are closely tracked for insights about the autocratic and secretive regime in Pyongyang, especially since his family has a history of heart disease.

Kim Jong Un went about 17 days without an appearance in state media last month, although the North Korean leader often drops out of view in summer to spend time at his seaside mansion and megayacht. He attended a ruling party meeting Wednesday in which he claimed "victory" in the "great quarantine war."

North Korea hasn't called its hundreds of thousands of reported fever cases "Covid," perhaps because it lacks a sufficient supply of test kits. The country has refused vaccines from outside, with reports saying planned shipments have been put on hold because of its objections to rules from Covax, a World Health Organization-backed body.

While Kim Jong Un made mention of South Korea in published remarks, his sister issued her first threat against the government of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol since it took power in May. "If the enemy continues to do such a dangerous thing that can introduce virus into our republic, we will respond by eradicating not only the virus but also the South Korean authorities," she said in a speech.

The South Korean Unification Ministry expressed "strong regret" over Kim Yo Jong's statement, calling her claims "rude" and unsubstantiated.

North Korea's escalating rhetoric against Seoul could set the stage for a resumption of military provocations that have slowed in recent months, possibility due to the outbreak. North Korea appears to be readying to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017, government officials from Japan, South Korea and the US have said.

Any display of the weapons in Kim's nuclear arsenal would serve as a reminder of the pressing security problems posed by Pyongyang that have simmered as US President Joe Biden's administration has been focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

There are plenty of places where the virus could have entered North Korea. While airports have largely been shut during the pandemic, the regime reopened a rail link with China in January and black-market traders frequently cross the border. A United Nations body has said satellite images show sea traffic at its main international port of Nampho, and illicit trade is conducted on the open seas in violation of sanctions.

North Korea -- one of only two UN member states that has not launched a vaccination program -- might be seeking to deflect blame away from its leader over an outbreak that was too big to ignore. The government has claimed that "alien things" sent across the border by balloons from the south brought the coronavirus into its territory -- with health experts and the South Korean government saying there are no precedents for the type of transmission described by its neighbor.

"It is quite natural for us to consider strange objects as vehicles of the malignant pandemic disease," Kim Yo Jong said adding her brother guided an "epoch-making miracle" in eradicating the virus.

Activist groups led by North Korean defectors have sent millions of anti-Pyongyang leaflets by balloon from South Korea for years, and Kim's regime often seizes upon them when it wants to increase tensions.

Similar leaflets were at the center of a series of North Korean complaints in the summer of 2020 that culminated in the regime blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border. Kim Yo Jong was also at forefront of the rhetorical attacks then against the government of former President Moon Jae-in.

North Korea may be "paving its way to resume its trade with China" by claiming victory, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul who has advised the South Korean government.

7 Russian Warplanes Destroyed In Explosions At Crimean Air Base: Report

WASHINGTON, Aug 11: Several Russian warplanes were destroyed after a series of blasts at one of its air bases in the annexed Crimea peninsula, multiple news outlets reported on Thursday crediting satellite images of the site.

According to CNN, at least seven fighter jets were damaged by the explosions at Saky air base on Tuesday in which one person was killed. The outlet further said that the warplanes appear to be Su-24 bombers and Su-30. The Russian Ministry of Defense said the blasts were caused by stored ammunition and was not the result of any attack.

The satellite images also show the explosion burned a part of vegetation around the air base, CNN further said.

The BBC too reported on the blasts and said the runways appear intact. The images have been released by US-based Planet Labs, the outlet further said.

William Alberque, an expert on defence related issues, told the BBC that three building that were also damaged by the explosions may have been used to temporarily store weapons. Alberque called it a targeted attack, but Ukraine has not claimed responsibility.

The air base lies 225 kilometers behind the Russian front line. It is close to the seaside resorts of Novofedorivka and Saky, but the Russian tour operators' association said they did not appear to have been affected.

Russia's defence ministry was adamant that the "detonation of several aviation ammunition stores" had caused an explosion, and said initially that no one had been harmed. It said there had been no attack and no aviation equipment had been damaged.

Crimea, a holiday destination for many Russians, has so far been spared the intense bombardment and artillery combat that other areas of eastern and southern Ukraine have suffered since Russian forces entered the country.

Can't Allow China's 'New Normal' On Drills Against Taiwan: US Speaker

WASHINGTON, Aug 11: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the US just cannot allow China to establish a "new normal" to put pressure on Taiwan through the kind of military drills and warplane incursions that Beijing launched after she visited the self-governing island.

China on Wednesday announced that it has "successfully completed" its week-long and unprecedented military drills that have essentially encircled Taiwan.

Initially, the People's Liberation Army announced the war games in the busy Taiwan Strait from August 4 to 7, the day after Pelosi, who is the highest-ranking US leader to have visited Taiwan in 25 years, left Taipei after high-level meetings. It later kept extending them, keeping the breakaway island on tenterhooks.

"What we saw with China is that they were trying to establish sort of a new normal. And we just can't let that happen," Pelosi told a news conference on Wednesday, referring to the provocative drills.

The Chinese military exercises involved hundreds of warplanes, dozens of naval ships, including an aircraft carrier group with a nuclear submarine in tow, amid assertions by the official media that such war games in the busy Taiwan Strait will be a new normal.

Pelosi's trip to Taipei angered Beijing, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Taiwan has accused China of using the recent drills as practice for an invasion.

“We didn't go there to talk about China. We went there to praise Taiwan. And we went there to show our friendship to say, ‘China cannot isolate Taiwan,'” Pelosi asserted during the news conference on Wednesday after her trip to Asia.

"The visit delivered a clear statement that America's commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific is unshakeable," Pelosi noted.

The US along with several world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the resource-rich region.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea. China also has territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea.

Pelosi said her bilateral discussions centred around seizing opportunities and addressing shared challenges, including upholding the democracy in the face of autocracy, fostering robust economic growth, including through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and in governance, responding to COVID-19 and climate crisis.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks told reporters that Pelosi's visit to Taiwan illustrated that no matter what Chinese President Xi Jinping said, the US was going to stand by its friends and allies.

Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, who was part of the Congressional delegation to Taiwan, was also present at the news conference.

He said the delegation discussed the backlog of the pending arms sales to Taiwan.

Apart from Taiwan, Pelosi's delegation also visited Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

Taiwan Holds Military Drill After China Says War Preps Will Continue

TAIPEI, Aug 11: Taiwan's army held another live-fire drill Thursday after Beijing ended its largest-ever military exercises around the island and repeated threats to bring the self-ruled democracy under its control.

Beijing has raged at a trip to Taiwan last week by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- the highest-ranking elected American official to visit in decades -- staging days of air and sea drills around the island that raised tensions to their highest level in years.

Taiwan has accused China of using the Pelosi visit as an excuse to kickstart drills that would allow it to rehearse for an invasion.

Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for Taiwan's Eighth Army Corps, said its forces fired howitzers and target flares as part of the defensive drill on Thursday morning.

The exercise in Taiwan's southernmost county Pingtung began at 0830 am (0030 GMT) and lasted about an hour, he said.

Artillery tucked in from the coast was lined up side by side, with armed soldiers in units firing the howitzers out to sea one after the other, a live stream showed.

Taiwan held a similar drill on Tuesday in Pingtung. Both involved hundreds of troops, the military said.

The military has played down the exercises' significance, saying they were already scheduled and were not in response to China's war games.

"We have two goals for the drills, the first is to certify the proper condition of the artillery and their maintenance condition and the second is to confirm the results of last year," Lou said, referring to annual drills.

The latest exercise came after China's military indicated its own drills had come to an end Wednesday, saying its forces "successfully completed various tasks" in the Taiwan Strait while vowing to continue patrolling its waters.

But in the same announcement, China added that it would "continue to carry out military training and prepare for war".

In a separate white paper published Wednesday, China's Taiwan Affairs Office said Beijing would "not renounce the use of force" against its neighbour and reserved "the option of taking all necessary measures".

"We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form," it said in the paper.

China last issued a white paper on Taiwan in 2000.

Taiwan's foreign ministry on Thursday joined its top policymaking body on China in rejecting the "one country, two systems" model that Beijing has proposed for the island.

"China's whole statement absolutely goes against the cross-strait status quo and its reality," ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told a press conference.

"China is using US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit as an excuse to destroy the status quo and taking the opportunity to make trouble, attempting to create a new normal to intimidate the Taiwanese people."

"One country, two systems" refers to the model under which Hong Kong and Macau were promised a degree of autonomy under Chinese rule.

Taiwan routinely stages military drills simulating defence against a Chinese invasion, and last month practised repelling attacks from the sea in a "joint interception operation" as part of its largest annual exercises.

In response to the Chinese military revealing it was bringing drills to an end Wednesday, Taiwan's army said it would "adjust how we deploy our forces... without letting our guard down".

Since the late 1990s, the island has transformed from an autocracy into a vibrant democracy, and a more distinct Taiwanese identity has solidified.

Relations between the two sides have significantly worsened since Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan's president in 2016.

Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party do not consider Taiwan a part of China.

Their platform falls under China's broad definition of Taiwanese separatism, which includes those who advocate for the island to have an identity separate from the mainland.

US Announces $1 Billion In New Arms Aid For Ukraine

WASHINTON, Aug 8: The Pentagon announced Monday $1 billion in fresh military aid for Ukraine, including additional Himars system missiles that have helped Kyiv's forces attack Russian troops far behind the front lines.

The package also includes more surface-to-air missiles for defense against Russian aircraft and rockets, more Javelin anti-armor rockets, and other ammunition, according to a statement from the US Department of Defense.

Taiwan Slams China For Continuing Military Drills Around Island

TAIPEI, Aug 8: Taiwan slammed China on Monday for conducting fresh air and sea drills around the island, as Beijing pressed on with its retaliation for a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemns China's decision to extend military exercises. China's provocation and aggression has harmed the status quo of the Taiwan Strait and raised tensions in the region," it said in a statement.

51 Killed After Air Strikes Between Gaza-Israel: Report

TEL AVIV, Aug 8: Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said as many as 51 people were killed in Gaza during the most recent round of fighting between Israel and Gaza-based militants, including 24 from the Jihad terror group.

According to the military, 16 people uninvolved in the hostilities were killed by Gazan rockets which fell short. The military believes that the figures are estimates, the Times of Israel reported.

The report said that another 11 people who were not affiliated with terror groups were killed, according to the IDF.

With this, a total of 27 Gazan civilians, including a number of children were killed in the fighting, the Times of Israel reported quoting the Israeli Defence Forces.

IDF spokesman Ran Kochav said that the military believes it killed 24 terrorists from the Islamic Jihad terror group.

"More Palestinians were killed by the failed firing by Islamic Jihad than by the firing of the IDF...Lessons will be learnt," Times of Israel quoted Kochav as saying, in the wake of the killing of the 11 people not directly involved in the fighting.

The IDF launched an operation 'Breaking Dawn' against the Palestinian movement of Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and carried out missile strikes, initially killing 10 people and injuring over 50 on Friday, which ended with a ceasefire last night.

The military said that approximately 1,100 rockets were fired toward Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Approximately 200 rockets fell short of their targets and landed in the Gaza Strip, it added.

The IDF carried out strikes on approximately 170 targets linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including senior officials and activists of the terror group.

The Islamic Jihad organization is aligned with Hamas, but often acts independently. Both are regarded as terrorist organizations by the majority of Western countries.

The United Nations Security Council is set to hold an emergency closed-door meeting today to discuss the latest escalation between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the Gaza Strip, as airstrikes were carried out across the Gaza Strip under Israel's operation Breaking Dawn against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

During the Monday meeting, Security Council members will discuss "the current developments and ways to support international efforts to achieve a comprehensive and just peace," a senior United Arab Emirates official said.

Earlier in a statement, Prime Minister Yair Lapid's office of Israel informed that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) struck Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip on August 5.

"The goal of this operation is the elimination of a concrete threat against the citizens of Israel and the civilians living adjacent to the Gaza Strip, as well as the targeting of terrorists and their sponsors. The IDF is acting in operational coordination with the ISA and intelligence bodies," the statement said.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the Israeli government will not allow terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to set the agenda in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and threaten the citizens of the State of Israel. "Anyone who tries to harm Israel should know: we will find you."

"The security forces will act against Islamic Jihad terrorists to eliminate the threat they pose to the citizens of Israel," he added.

Adding to what Lapid said, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated the goal is to protect the State of Israel and the citizens of Israel and they will not allow anyone to threaten or harm the citizens of Israel. "Whoever tries to do so - will get hurt."

In a first, U.S. Navy Ship arrives in India for repairs

CHENNAI, Aug 7: In a first, a U.S. Navy Ship, Charles Drew, arrived in India for carrying out repairs and allied services at Larsen & Toubro’s (L&T) Shipyard at Kattupalli, Chennai, on Sunday adding a new dimension to the fast expanding Indo-U.S. strategic partnership.

“This is the first ever repair of a U.S. Navy ship in India. The U.S. Navy had awarded a contract to L&T’s Shipyard at Kattupalli for undertaking maintenance of the ship. The event signifies the capabilities of Indian shipyards in the global ship repairing market,” a Defence Ministry statement said.

The USNS Charles Drew will be at the Kattupalli shipyard for a period of 11 days and undergo repairs in various areas.

At the India-U.S. 2+2 in April, both sides agreed to explore the possibilities of utilising Indian shipyards for the repair and maintenance of ships of the U.S. Maritime Sealift Command to support mid-voyage repair of U.S. Naval ships.

The event was attended by Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar and other senior civil & military officials of Ministry of Defence.

Member of the Executive Council and Advisor to the CEO of L&T for Defence and Smart Technologies J.D. Patil said that the Marine Sealift Command of the U.S. Navy had undertaken rigorous evaluation of select shipyards in India and cleared L&T for undertaking repairs on their vessels which he said was “a recognition for the modern infrastructure at the shipyard built to global standards.”

Terming the event a red-letter day for the Indian shipbuilding industry and Indo-U.S. defence relationship, Defence Secretary Dr. Ajay Kumar described the arrival of USNS Charles Drew for repairs as a sign of a maturing Indian shipbuilding industry.

“Today, India has six major shipyards with a turnover of nearly $2 billion. We are making ships not only for our own requirements. We have our own design house capable of making all kinds of state-of-the-art ships. The country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Vikrant is a shining example of the growth of the Indian shipbuilding industry,” he said.

Dr. Kumar also asserted that the ties between India and the U.S. have been expanding in scale and scope and are based on common values and beliefs of “an open, inclusive and rule-based order in Indo-Pacific and rest of the global common systems.”

In the next two to three years, India would see the first large size marine diesel engine being designed and developed in the country, Dr. Kumar said.

He further said, in a big step towards ship building efforts, a decision had been made to develop the capabilities of naval shipyards and marine diesel engines in India of six mega watts and above would be designed and manufactured in the country.

Request for proposal in this regard will be floated by the Indian Navy. “It has been decided to develop the diesel marine engine under the ‘make-one’ procedure wherein the government provides 70% assistance to the project cost for design and development of the engine and in the in-principle approval has been given,” he added.

The USNS Charles Drew ship will be in the port for repair from August 7 to August 17.

Judith Ravin, US Consul General in Chennai, said, “In April, at the US - India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin affirmed their intention to explore utilising Indian shipyards for repairs on US Navy vessels. This inaugural repair of a United States Naval Ship, the Charles Drew, conducted by the L&T Kattupalli shipyard, is a landmark development to be celebrated as a symbol of our strengthened U.S.-India partnership.”

S.N. Ghormade, Vice Chief of Naval Staff, said Voyage Repair Availability (VRS) of USNS Charles Drew at L&T Kattupalli shows the kind of mutual trust and also consolidates our status as a major defence partner. This historic development between India and US will strengthen the cooperation in maritime domain too.

Dr. Kumar said, the country has seen significant progress in the Indo US Defence relationship in the last couple of years. “In the defence industry cooperation we have seen tremendous amount of traction. India’s defence exports have seen huge increase in the last four to five years. From 2015-2016 to the present, exports have seen a massive growth. Major destination for Indian exports is to the US. This ship building exercise adds a new chapter in the defence exports. This is also a sign of maturing of ship building industry,” he added.

Israeli airstrike kills 2nd top Islamic Jihad commander

GAZA, Aug 7: The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said an Israeli airstrike late on Saturday killed its top commander for the southern Gaza Strip, a day after Israel killed the Iranian-backed group’s commander for northern Gaza in an air raid that triggered the worst cross-border conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants since the end of an 11-day war in 2021.

Al-Quda Brigades of Islamic Jihad confirmed on Sunday that the airstrike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah had killed Khaled Mansour, the commander, and two fellow militants.

It said five other civilians, including a child and three women, were also killed in the airstrike that flattened several homes in Rafah.

Late on Saturday, Gaza’s Health Ministry said 24 people have been killed so far in the coastal strip, including six children.

The number doesn’t likely include all of those who were killed in the Rafah airstrike because Civil Defence responders were still looking for bodies and survivors under the rubble.

For now, the two highest-ranking commanders in Islamic Jihad and several other militants are among the dead. Israel estimates its airstrikes have killed about 15 militants.

Militants from Islamic Jihad continued firing rockets toward Israel and the Israeli military continued airstrikes on Gaza, though the intensity of the exchange had decreased in the early hours of Sunday.

The fighting began with Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a wave of strikes on Friday that Israel said were meant to prevent an imminent attack.

Hamas, the larger militant group that rules Gaza, appeared to remain on the sidelines of the conflict for now, keeping its response limited.

Israel and Hamas fought a war barely a year ago, one of four major conflicts and several smaller battles over the last 15 years that exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s two million Palestinian residents.

Whether Hamas continues to stay out of the fight depends in part on how much punishment Israel inflicts on Gaza as rocket fire continues.

The Israeli military said an errant rocket fired by Palestinian militants killed civilians, including children, late Saturday in the town of Jabaliya, in northern Gaza.

The military said it investigated the incident and concluded “without a doubt” that it was caused by a misfire on the part of Islamic Jihad. There was no official Palestinian comment on the incident.

A Palestinian medical worker who was not authorized to brief media and spoke on condition of anonymity said the blast killed at least six people, including three children.

Israeli airstrikes on Saturday killed a 75-year-old woman and wounded six others as they were preparing to go to a wedding.

Airstrikes have also destroyed several houses in the Gaza Strip, some of them belonging to Islamic Jihad members.

The lone power plant in Gaza ground to a halt at noon Saturday due to a lack of fuel. Israel has kept its crossing points into Gaza closed since Tuesday.

With the new disruption, Gazans can use only four hours of electricity a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and deepening the territory’s chronic power crisis amid peak summer heat.

Sri Lanka Asks China To Delay Sending Ship After India Pressure: Report

COLOMBO, Aug 6: Sri Lanka has asked China to indefinitely delay a visit by a ship following intense pressure by India, official sources said Saturday.

The Yuan Wang 5 is en route from the Chinese port of Jiangyin and due in the Chinese-run Sri Lankan port of Hambantota on Thursday, according to analytics website MarineTraffic.

It is described as a research and survey vessel, but according to CNN-News18 is a dual-use spy ship, employed for space and satellite tracking and with specific usage in intercontinental ballistic missile launches.

Some media reports said that New Delhi was worried the vessel would be used to spy on its activities and that it had lodged a complaint with Colombo.

India remains suspicious of China's growing influence in its southern neighbour Sri Lanka.

The foreign ministry last week said that it will closely monitor "any bearing on India's security and economic interests and takes all necessary measures to safeguard them".

In a written request, the Sri Lanka foreign ministry told the Chinese embassy in Colombo not to go ahead with the visit, said an official involved in the process on Saturday.

"The ministry wishes to request that the arrival date of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota to be deferred until further consultations are made on this matter," the request says.

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe assured political party leaders on Friday that the controversial visit will not go ahead as planned.

Earlier this week, Colombo appeared to brush aside Indian concerns, saying the vessel was coming only to refuel and replenish supplies and would not undertake any work in Sri Lankan waters.

India objected strongly when two Chinese submarines berthed in Sri Lanka in 2014.

Former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose brother Mahinda Rajapaksa borrowed heavily from China while president from 2005 to 2015, was forced to resign last month over Sri Lanka's worst-ever economic crisis, which is ongoing.

Taiwan Says China's Military Drills Simulate Attack On Its Main Island

TAIPEI, Aug 6: Taiwan accused the Chinese army of simulating an attack on its main island Saturday, as Beijing doubled down on its retaliation for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei after announcing a suspension of cooperation with Washington on key issues.

Relations between the two superpowers have nosedived in the wake of Pelosi's trip to China's self-ruled neighbour -- which it claims as its territory -- prompting calls from the UN for an urgent de-escalation of tensions.

And Friday saw the environment become the latest victim of the geopolitical jousting, as Beijing said it would withdraw from a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington -- most notably on climate change and defence cooperation.

The world's two largest polluters had pledged to work together to accelerate climate action this decade and vowed to meet regularly to tackle the crisis -- a deal that now looks shaky.

Beijing on Saturday continued some of its largest-ever military drills around Taiwan -- exercises aimed at practicising a blockade and ultimate invasion of the island, analysts say.

Taipei said it observed "multiple" Chinese planes and ships operating in the Taiwan Strait, believing them to be simulating an attack on the self-ruled democracy's main island.

"Multiple batches of Communist planes and ships conducting activities around the Taiwan Strait, some of which crossed the median line," its defence ministry said in a statement, referring to a demarcation line that runs down the Taiwan Strait which Beijing does not recognise.

A Chinese military jet flies over Pingtan island, one of mainland China's closest point from Taiwan

In a bid to show just how close China's forces have been getting to Taiwan's shores, Beijing's military overnight released a video of an air force pilot filming the island's coastline and mountains from his cockpit.

Beijing also said they would hold a live-fire drill in a southern part of the Yellow Sea -- located between China and the Korean peninsula -- from Saturday until August 15.

China's state broadcaster, CCTV, has reported that Chinese missiles have flown directly over Taiwan during the exercises -- a major escalation if confirmed.

Taipei has remained defiant, insisting it would not be cowed by its "evil neighbour".

The scale and intensity of China's drills have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies, with the White House summoning China's ambassador to Washington on Friday to rebuke him over Beijing's actions.

Beijing's decision to withdraw from hard-won cooperation on climate change has now sparked wider fears about the future of the planet.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington the decision was "fundamentally irresponsible."

"They're actually punishing the whole world, because the climate crisis doesn't recognize geographic boundaries and borders," Kirby said.

"The world's largest emitter now is refusing to engage on critical steps necessary to combat the climate crisis."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the two superpowers must continue to work together -- for the world's sake.

"For the secretary-general, there is no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation between the two countries," his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

But with tensions over Taiwan having risen to their highest level in nearly 30 years with an elevated risk of military conflict, experts said the latest downturn in relations between the two superpowers could be deep and long-lasting.

10 Killed In Israeli Air Strikes In Gaza

GAZA CITY, Aug 5: Ten persons have been killed and 44 injured in a Israeli military air strikes on Gaza. "The IDF (Israeli military) is currently striking in the Gaza Strip. A special situation has been declared on the Israeli home front," a statement said.

The Islamic Jihad group said one of its commanders was killed "in a Zionist assassination in Gaza City".

Palestinians in Gaza City said they witnessed air strikes on an apartment in the central Rimal neighbourhood.

Security sources in the Palestinian enclave said there were air strikes in several parts of the territory.

The strikes come four days after Israel closed its two border crossings with Gaza and restricted the movement of Israeli civilians living near the frontier, citing security concerns.

The measures follow the arrest in the occupied West Bank of two senior members of the group Islamic Jihad, which has a strong presence in Gaza.

US Summons Chinese Ambassador Over 'Irresponsible' Actions On Taiwan

WASHINGTON, Aug 5: The White House summoned China's ambassador to Washington to condemn the "irresponsible" behavior of Beijing over Taiwan, a senior US official said Friday.

John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, said that Ambassador Qin Gang was summoned following China's military sabre rattling in response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to self-ruled, democratic Taiwan.

Kirby, who also described China's actions as "provocative," did not say which officials met with the ambassador.

"We condemned the PRC's military actions, which are irresponsible, at odds with our long-standing goal of maintaining peace and stability and across the Taiwan Strait," he said, referring to China by its official acronym for the People's Republic of China.

"We made clear to the ambassador that Beijing's actions are of concern to Taiwan, to us, and to our partners around the world," Kirby said, highlighting concerns from the G7 group of wealthy democracies and the Asian regional grouping ASEAN.

"Finally, we made clear once again as we have done privately at the highest levels and publicly: nothing has changed about our one China policy," Kirby said.

He was referring to the US position of only acknowledging the Chinese position that Taiwan is part of China.

It leaves it to the two sides to work out a solution, while opposing any use of force to change the status quo.

Beijing insists that Taiwan is a part of China awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. Taiwan's current ruling party has vowed to defend the island's sovereignty.

"We also made clear that the United States is prepared for what Beijing chooses to do. We will not seek and do not want a crisis," he said.

"At the same time, we will not be deterred from operating in the seas and skies of the Western Pacific, consistent with international law, as we have for decades -- supporting Taiwan and defending a free and open" Pacific region.

68 Chinese Planes, 13 Warships Crossed Median Line Today, Says Taiwan

TAIPEI, Aug 5S: Taipei's military said 68 Chinese fighter jets and 13 warships crossed the "median line" that runs down the Taiwan Strait during Friday's military drills by Beijing's forces.

"(We) condemn the communist military for deliberately crossing the median line of the strait and harassing the sea and air around Taiwan," the defence ministry said in its latest statement.

 

China Can't Prevent World Leaders To Visit Taiwan, Says Nancy Pelosi

WASHINGTON, Aug 3: China cannot prevent world leaders from traveling to Taiwan, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday after concluding a visit to the self-ruled island.

"Sadly, Taiwan has been prevented from participating in global meetings, most recently the World Health Organization, because of objections by the Chinese Communist Party," Pelosi said in statement.

"While they may prevent Taiwan from sending its leaders to global forums, they cannot prevent world leaders or anyone from traveling to Taiwan to pay respect to its flourishing Democracy, to highlight its many successes and to reaffirm our commitment to continued collaboration."

US House Speaker Pelosi Lands In Taiwan, Defying China Warnings

TAIPEI, Aug 2: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has landed in Taiwan amid escalating threats from China over the visit. China warned the US that it was "playing with fire". The Chinese military has vowed to launch "targeted military actions".

"America's solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy," Nancy Pelosi tweeted after landing.

"Our visit is one of several Congressional delegations to Taiwan -- and it in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, U.S.-China Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances," read her second tweet.

"The Chinese People's Liberation Army is on high alert and will launch a series of targeted military operations to counter this, resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely thwart external interference and 'Taiwan independence' separatist attempts," defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in a statement condemning the visit.

Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory and sees the visit by the highest-ranking US official in over 25 years as support for Taiwan's independence movement. Washington officially has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by US law to help the island defend itself.

Minutes after Ms Pelosi's flight landed, China lodged a strong protest with the US. "The United States... has been attempting to use Taiwan to contain China. It constantly distorts, obscures and hollows out the one-China principle, steps up its official exchanges with Taiwan, and emboldens 'Taiwan independence' separatist activities. These moves, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous. Those who play with fire will perish by it," its statement read.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said yesterday that Beijing's responses could include firing missiles near Taiwan, large-scale air or naval activities, or further "spurious legal claims" such as assertion that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway. "We will not take the bait...(or) be intimidated," Kirby said.

Earlier this evening, the local media reported that Chinese fighter jets had crossed Taiwan strait, which was closed to traffic by China as Ms Pelosi's flight headed for Taipei.

Ms Pelosi's US C-40C aircraft circled around and approached Taiwan from the Philippine Sea. Four US warships, including an aircraft carrier, have been positioned in waters east of Taiwan on what the US Navy has called routine deployments.

Taiwan's foreign ministry had maintained its silence about the visit. Live television images, however, showed Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu receiving Ms Pelosi at the airport, where hundreds flocked to see her. The tallest building in Taipei was lit up as a mark of welcome.

The furor around Ms Pelosi's visit risks straining relations throughout the region as governments confront the reality of ratcheting tensions between the world's two largest economies. Both the US and China have sent diplomats to engage with Southeast Asian leaders.

Nancy Pelosi's Arrival In Taiwan Spurs China To Announce Military Drills, Missile Tests

TAIPEI, Aug 2: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking American politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years, prompting China to announce missile tests and military drills encircling the island.

Pelosi on Tuesday night greeted Taiwanese officials including Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on the tarmac, where she posed for photos. Her congressional delegation plans to meet President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday morning and for lunch, the Taiwan leader's office said in a statement.

Pelosi said in a statement that her visit "in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy" and that America "continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo."

"Our congressional delegation's visit to Taiwan honors America's unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan's vibrant democracy," Pelosi said.

China in response condemned the visit and announced it would conduct missile tests starting on Tuesday night. Beijing also announced military drills in different areas surrounding the main island of Taiwan from August 4 to August 7.

"China will take all necessary measures to resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and all consequences must be born by the US and the Taiwan independence forces," the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said in a statement after Pelosi landed.

China, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory, had vowed an unspecified military response ahead of Pelosi's visit that risks sparking a crisis between the world's biggest economies. President Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden last week he would "resolutely safeguard China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity" and that "whoever plays with fire will get burned."

"We are going to make sure that she has a safe and secure visit," John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said on CNN. "We will not be intimidated or deterred from all of our other security commitments in the region because of the Chinese rhetoric or even some of their actions."

Traders braced for bad news ahead of the visit, with stocks sliding and haven assets such as the yen and Treasuries climbing. While there are few signs China is planning a full-scale invasion of Taiwan, Beijing has responded to past visits by foreign officials with large sorties into Taiwan's air defense identification zone or across the median line that divides the strait.

Taiwan faced cyberattacks ahead of Pelosi's arrival, with the presidential office saying it suffered a 20-minute barrage in the early evening hours that was 200 times worse than usual. The website of the Foreign Ministry also appeared to face periodic disruptions.

Taiwan's Defense Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the island's military was prepared to send "appropriate armed forces according to the threat," adding that it was "determined, confident and capable of ensuring national security."

Pelosi is the highest-ranking American politician to visit Taiwan since then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich did so in 1997. That came shortly after the last major crisis in the Taiwan Strait, when China lobbed missiles into the sea near ports and then-President Bill Clinton sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the area.

Pelosi will visit Taiwan's parliament Wednesday morning, have lunch with President Tsai Ing-wen and also meet with democracy activists, according to local media reports. The previously unannounced stop in Taiwan comes after Pelosi led a congressional delegation to Singapore and Malaysia. They will head next to South Korea and Japan -- two staunch US allies.

While the White House has sought to dial back rising tensions with China, emphasizing that Congress is an independent branch of government, Beijing has rejected that argument. On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying slammed the "provocative" visit and said any countermeasures from Beijing would be "justified." Still, she left the door open for a possible in-person summit between Biden and Xi later this year.

Taiwan remains the most sensitive issue between the US and China, with the potential to one day spark a military conflict. Biden said in May that Washington would intervene to defend Taiwan in any attack from China, although the White House later clarified he meant the US would provide weapons, in accordance with existing agreements.

Chinese media outlets including the Communist Party's Global Times have suggested the People's Liberation Army would respond aggressively to a Pelosi trip.

Under an agreement reached in 1978 to normalize relations between China and the US, Washington agreed to recognize only Beijing as the seat of China's government, while acknowledging -- but not endorsing -- the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.

The US has insisted that any unification between the island and mainland must be peaceful, and supplied Taiwan with advanced weaponry while remaining deliberately ambiguous about whether US forces would help defend against a Chinese attack.

Visits by lower level US lawmakers have also prompted military responses by China. Last November, Chinese warplanes flew around the east side of the island after a visit by a US congressional delegation.

Al Qaeda Chief Killed In US Airstrike, Biden Says 'Justice Delivered'

WASHINGTON, Aug 2: Al Qaeda Chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the world's most wanted terrorists and a mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, was killed in a drone strike carried out by the US in the Afghan capital Kabul.

In a televised address, US President Joe Biden said that he hoped Zawahiri's death would bring "closure" to families of the 3,000 people killed in the United States on 9/11.

He said that there were no civilian casualties in the operation that was conducted over the weekend. "Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more", the US president said.

"The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. Tonight we made clear: No matter how long it takes. No matter where you try to hide. We will find you," he later tweeted.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has added a "deceased" caption under the profile image of Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri on its website.

Officials said Zawahiri was on the balcony of his Kabul residence when he was targeted with two Hellfire missiles on July 31, adding that President Biden gave his go-ahead to the operation on July 25.

Apparent photographs of the building show windows blown out on one floor, but the rest of the building appeared completely intact. Members of Zawahiri's family were present at the home, but "were purposely not targeted and were not harmed," officials said.

US officials called Zawahiri's presence in the Afghan capital Kabul a "clear violation" of a deal the Taliban had signed with the US in Doha in 2020 that paved the way for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Under the 2020 Doha deal, the Taliban promised not to allow Afghanistan to be used again as a launchpad for terrorism, but experts believe the group never broke their ties with Al-Qaeda.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a strike took place on Sunday in Kabul. He strongly condemned the operation, calling it a violation of "international principles."

Zawahiri had been on the run for 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. He took over Al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011, and had a $25 million US bounty on his head.

India to extend $100 million line of credit to Maldives; six pacts signed

NEW DELHI, Aug 2: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday stated that India will extend an additional $100 million line of credit to the Maldives. Following bilateral talks between Modi and President of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, India and Maldives signed six pacts to facilitate cooperation in capacity building, cyber security, housing, disaster management, and infrastructure. Solih also reiterated his country’s “firm commitment to deal with the threat of terrorism.”

Sharing images of the duo, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi Tuesday said, “A partnership bound by the waves of the Indian Ocean, underpinned by close historical and cultural ties”.

On Monday, Solih met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar after arriving in New Delhi. Jaishankar said India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and the Maldives’ ‘India First’ policy are “complementary” and the two policies take the special partnership forward. Solih is on a four-day visit to India.

Solih’s visit to India comes amid his widening political rift with Mohammed Nasheed, former President of the island nation and the current parliament speaker. Both Solih and Nasheed are senior leaders of the Maldivian Democratic Party.

 

Taiwan Holds Military Drills, Trains Citizens For War Amid China Threat

TAIPEI, Aug 1: Sirens blare across Taiwan, streets are cleared and people moved into shelters as the island carries out military drills amid growing concerns over China's warning over US Speaker's likely visit to the region, which it claims as its own.
The Russia's February invasion of Ukraine has sharpened those concerns.

China has reacted strongly to reports that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may visit Taiwan on Tuesday, warning that its military would never "sit idly by" if she were to visit the island.

Ms Pelosi's office said on Sunday that she was leading a congressional delegation to the region that would include visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. It did not mention Taiwan.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said earlier on Monday that it would be "a gross interference in China's internal affairs" if Pelosi visits Taiwan, and warned that it would lead to "very serious developments and consequences."

China views visits by US officials to Taiwan as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp in the island.

A visit by Ms Pelosi would come amid worsening ties between Washington and Beijing. Republican Newt Gingrich was the last House speaker to visit Taiwan, in 1997.

In a call with US President Joe Biden last Thursday, Chinese President warned him that Washington should abide by the one-China principle and "those who play with fire will perish by it".

Biden told Xi that US policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects China's sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide the island's future.

 

 
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